Productivity 102: A Great Working Environment

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Productivity 101: Setting Out Goals

Make daily routines that support your workday

Continuous productivity across days and weeks is a type of momentum

  • Rituals and routines bring rest and comfort through familiarity
  • Routine habits also tell the mind that it’s time to start working
  • Devoted rituals free up thought and energy for worthwhile actions and thoughts
    • Flip your medications upside down every time you take them to remember if you took them
    • Cure indecision with a coin flip
    • If you don’t have a coin, decide even or odd and look at the minute hand of a clock
  • Make consistent scheduled routines, even through the weekend
    • Slowly adapt as your body adjusts, usually 15 minutes at a time
  • Turn small unimportant decisions into automatic responses
    • If you’re indecisive about something that won’t matter in 24 hours, you’re spending unnecessary energy on it
    • Make unimportant choices spontaneously

You don’t have to remember every common item you use with some tricks

  • Make your phone charger more accessible
    • Put glow-in-the-dark paint on it
    • Glue a bright dot on it
    • Secure it to something else by running a binder clip through it
  • Place anything you need under, over or near something else you know you’ll need
    • Place your car keys on it
    • Put it in a shoe
    • Set it on top of your phone
  • Set your phone or watch alarm to activate when you want to grab it
  • Put things back where you first looked for them, not where you found them
  • Do a once-over every time you leave, since it’s easy to forget something until you arrive where you needed it

Make productive days by preparing during the prior night

Write the next day’s tasks on your mirror with a dry-erase marker

Use 15 minutes to make a personal journal about everything you’ve done that day

  • Journals force the mind to re-assess the day’s events and allows for more in-depth reflection
  • Forgive yourself for anything you failed at
    1. Think of what you learned from what happened
    2. Capture the lesson
    3. Release the bad feeling

Make sleep a priority

  • Sleep 7-9 hours a night
  • Limit alcohol intake, since it interferes with sleep cycles even while it makes you drowsy
  • Use an app like or a sleep monitor to track your sleep cycles
  • Sleep will be discussed more in-depth later

Set your alarm an hour before bedtime to remind yourself to wind down

  • Set out your clothes for the next day
    • Set out workout clothes if you plan to exercise in the morning
  • Make a positive and enjoyable reason for waking up early
  • Write a “Night Before” list
    • Tomorrow, I’m going to (your next day’s three most important goals)
    • To be ready, I need to ___
    • I will remember my ___
    • The random thoughts that just filled my head are ___
    • I also need to remember to ___

Make a consistent routine to wind down

  • Read a paper novel
  • Drink a glass of herbal tea or cold water
  • Take a bath or shower
  • Floss and brush teeth
  • Set pajamas out to change into
  • Turn off all electronics, since blue light interferes with sleep cycles
  • Listen to white noise or wear an eye mask if you have a hard time with insomnia

Put the alarm clock across the room to require you to get up to turn it off

  • Never use your favorite song as your alarm clock unless you want to learn to hate it
  • If you keep sleeping through the alarm, set a calmer alarm 15 minutes earlier
  • Put your phone in a glass bowl or cup to make it louder

Make a comfortable morning routine

Wake up very early at the same time every day and get out of bed immediately

  • By waking up early, you never feel rushed and your day will always feel more productive
  • If you use group showers that fill up quickly, then plan your schedule to wake up at an odd time to avoid others who wake up on the hour

Try some tricks to wake up more easily

  • Splash cold water on your face
  • Take a cold shower
    • Use a blow dryer on the mirror to clean the steam after the shower
  • Drink a cold glass of cold water
    • Add mint leaves or mint oil to the water
  • Play a video game on your phone
  • Consider a full-spectrum LED light to wake up more quickly

Create an auto-pilot routine that strings from one item to the next

  • Everyone has their style and preference, so make your own
  • Write down whatever comes to mind
  • Make your bed
  • Review your three goals for the day
  • Inspirational music
  • Meditation, self-reflection or prayer
  • One small task toward your long-term goals
  • Hard physical activity or stretching
  • Take a shower, shave, brush teeth
    • Hold your towel in place from falling with a hair clip
  • Cook a protein-rich breakfast
  • Try a music playlist that gets progressively more energetic and timed for you to get out of the house on time

Avoid anything that can drag down your morning

  • Reading or listening to the news
  • Not showering
  • A large breakfast
  • Coffee or other stimulants
    • Coffee helps when your energy level dips, not when you wake up
  • Sleeping in or lying in bed wanting to sleep longer

Use your commute and any other dead time throughout your day

Listen to something productive or inspiring

Entertain alternatives like mass transit or bicycling to work

Keep worthwhile reading material or a Gameboy next to your toilet

Instead of social media, make a reading list of articles or books you’ve wanted to read for when you’re waiting for something else

Make a work environment that inspires productivity

Set a temperature around 70°-85° F (20°-30° C), either with shade or air conditioning

  • Women on average work best at 2.5° F warmer than men, so watch for it in a mixed workforce

Avoid crowded places where many people pass by

  • Stay away from anything that takes away your visual focus by blinking or shining brightly

Observe your workspace’s colors

  • Blue and green increase stimulation and productivity
  • Red increases physical energy
  • White reflects light and creates an open-air feeling
  • Yellow increases concentration and inspires

Decorate and equip your desk properly

Try to use natural sunlight from windows, blue-enriched light or full-spectrum light

Open a window or scent the air with either lemon, jasmine, lavender, rosemary, cinnamon or peppermint

Post something inspirational within your field of vision

  • Motivational poster
  • Artwork
  • Inspirational collage
  • A personal photo of family or friends

Put a potted plant or herbs near or on your desk

  • Areca palms are natural humidifiers
  • Snake plants are air purifiers
  • Rosemary increases memory retention
  • Lemon balm and citrus improves mood
  • Pine and lavender reduce stress
  • Cinnamon and peppermint increase alertness
  • Cedarwood and vetiver help with focus

Buy a more comfortable and work-friendly desk and chair

  • Ergonomic/flexible desk chair
  • Medicine ball
  • Yoga ball
  • Treadmill desk
  • Standing desk
  • More rounded furniture has a trendy feel to it

Keep your computer up-to-date

  • Most of the time, updating a computer overnight before you leave is the least intrusive method

Put away anything that can distract you

  • Put away all papers and other actionables sitting on your desk
    • Action items distract as a constant reminder of other incomplete tasks
    • Create a to-do list on a single sheet, then file the papers away
  • Get rid or put away any desk toys that could distract you
  • Hide cords and wires that come out of the computer
  • Put away the clock, deactivate computer clocks, and only track time with alarms
    • Get a task light as an alternative to a noise

Make your travel time more productive

Get any work done ahead of schedule to allow the right kind of work when in an airport or bus

Cut down on driving or any other commuting where you can’t get work done

Assume you won’t have access to the internet unless you are confident you’ll have uninterrupted service

  • Traveling already has numerous deadlines, so don’t schedule online appointments
  • Download everything in advance and do any online research you will need, along with anything you feel you might need
  • If you desperately need the internet, arrange for wireless internet in advance with a phone mobile hotspot or another arrangement

Plan your trip before leaving

  • Fully charge everything, and consider getting battery backups
  • Bring a power strip if you’re plugging more than one thing in
    • If flying internationally, bring the correct power adapter for the region
  • Bring earbuds or noise-canceling headphones
  • Arrange for as much space as you will reasonably need

Try working from home

Science has proven that working from home provides a dramatic increase in overall productivity

  • Have an overall strategy to avoid getting distracted
  • Set boundaries with any family and friends you may run across
  • Plan what you will eat before starting work

Separate your “home” life and “work” life, even if it’s with a small conditioned response

  • Get dressed and shower, even if it’s to go to your computer
  • Wear a work outfit while working
  • Designate a “work area” with no personal effects or distracting items
  • Designate the rest of the house as the “home area” where work items are off-limits
  • Don’t do your household chores when on “work” time

Surround yourself with people who support you and your work

Keep your meetings in-person to avoid miscommunications

Find mentors and older friends to encourage you and guide you

Make more friends at the office

Talk out your feelings with someone

Ask for help with any jobs you dislike

Never neglect family or friends for the sake of productivity

  • You will sacrifice happiness for work, which will make you less productive

After your workday, make time to enjoy yourself

  • Set aside time to decompress, relax and enjoy a hobby
    • Set time for exercising to increase your energy level (will be discussed more in-depth later)
  • Keep your diet focused on healthy food
    • Learn how to cook (will be discussed later)
  • There is no shame or cause for criticism for preplanned recreation time, especially after a productive day
  • Make exciting or fun weekend plans to look forward to
Next: Productivity 103: Maximizing Efficiency