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Question – How can I improve my routine to be more productive?

Looking to better your morning and night time rituals? Our career coach gives insight into improving your day-to-day behaviours to be a more efficient person.

Question: How can I adjust my morning and night routine to get the most out of my working day? Sunarti, Indonesia

Sharing morning routines has become a bit of a trope on sites like LinkedIn. But if you can ignore people’s attempts to outdo each other’s routines – usually involving 5am ice-baths or some such – there are some things that make a lot of sense.

Firstly, having any routine is helpful, especially as so many people now have flexible working arrangements or can work from home. It is incumbent upon you to have some self-discipline.

Having a regular time to get up and go to bed is good sleep hygiene, and getting enough sleep is critical for mental and physical health.

The same goes for exercising regularly. My observation is that making this part of a routine means you are far more likely to do it than if it’s something you try to fit in when you can, around other commitments.

Getting your thoughts down on paper, writing out a to-do list and identifying the 2-3 priorities, really helps with focus. Try and reflect on what has been going well, what could be done better, what needs to get done, and what are the top 2-3 priorities over the next few days. You can do this morning or evening.

Some other productivity tips, beyond morning and evening routines, that I also think are really useful are:

Understand your own working rhythm and when you are most productive. If you are a morning person, do the most important stuff then, vice versa if you are an evening person. The same if you know you have more energy at the start or end of the week

Understand your own schedule, and don’t over schedule. In most jobs, unexpected stuff happens. Don’t schedule 8 hours work in a day, schedule 4-5 and leave 3-4 hours free as contingency time.

Don’t multitask, countless studies show this doesn’t work. If you have something important to do, set aside the time to do it, and focus only on that task, nothing else.

Treat sorting out your incoming messages as a separate and distinct task from working on whatever tasks are embedded in the messages.

Turn off all of your notifications. Unfortunately, a lot of the technology we use in the workplace enables us to communicate and share information really quickly, but encourages working habits that reduce productivity.

My final thought on this is not to fetishise productivity. For most of us who are knowledge workers, work is essentially infinite. Your time is finite, and no amount of productivity improvements will change that.

So, setting a limit on how many hours you put in each day and week is important to ensure you have a life outside work.