By Theresa Horak
Finding time in the day is becoming increasingly challenging, especially for the busy entrepreneur.
When I started my business three years ago, I believed that the more hours I put in, the more I would get done. I used to unlock the office door as early as 5:00 a.m. and would work right through until 10:00 p.m.that night. This was a regular occurrence and what I achieved after a year of pushing myself to the limits was…. not much. I became lethargic and slow.
My decision-making capabilities became compromised and my stress levels were sky high. It was time to revamp my way of thinking about work, and I embarked on a self-enrichment journey to learn about habits to enhance productivity. Here is what I learned:
1) Get a good night’s sleep – A productive day starts around 8:00 p.m. the night before. Unwind, relax, let go of all the busyness, switch off your electronics, and tap into your creativity to formulate a personalized evening routine that nourishes your soul – this could include a relaxing bubble bath, meditation, gratitude journaling, reading a good book, yoga or stretching exercises.
2) Ground and energize yourself – The quality of the first hour of your day determines the quality of the rest of your day, so make this count! Don’t reach for your phone and start the morning reacting to social media posts or e-mails from the night before. During this golden hour, take time to exercise or enrich yourself. I personally listen to audiobooks that cover everything from leadership to marketing.
3) Prioritize your tasks – I use the Eisenhower method where I divide tasks into four categories:
- Important and Urgent – Do these tasks first!
- Important but not Urgent – Take the time to schedule a time to do the task and not leave it ‘til the last minute.
- Not Important but Urgent – Delegate or automate these tasks.
- Not Important and not Urgent – If you can ignore these, do so, and if not, do it after all the important work is done.
4) Work in Flow – The Theory of Flow was first studied by a Hungarian psychologist professor, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. This is the optimal state for productivity and we have all experienced this in our lives: when we are so engaged in a task that time becomes irrelevant. These are things we can do to achieve this state:
- Focus on one task; yes, this means no multitasking!
- Set goals so you have a clear image of what you want to achieve.
- Remove distractions – external, i.e. phone, e-mail notifications,
et cetera, as well as internal, which is our mind chatter.
- Make the task interesting and find ways to make it more enjoyable.
- Work at the time of day that you are at your peak. For me, this is early mornings, but if you are a night owl, you might want to structure your day differently.
- Take a break every 90 minutes. This is important to maintain the intensity of your focus.
5) Use food to fuel your body – Starting with a high sugar cereal will have you crashing before midday. Plan balanced meals for the day that include a portion of protein, a portion of carbs, loading up on fruits and vegetables, and adding in some healthy fats. This will provide you with all the energy that you need for a three to four hour period. Sugar, caffeine, and processed foods play havoc with your energy levels and set you up for a yo-yo day that will leave you exhausted, most probably reaching for the cookie jar at some point.
6) Exercise for optimal health – Lastly, cardio exercise is extremely important to help regulate our ability to deal with stress throughout the day. Second to cardio is strength training. Not only does strength training build your muscles, it also strengthens your mind. It is not always easy to push your muscles to their limits, but you will feel great afterwards and move into the day with more confidence and a better posture as well. Don’t forget to stretch every day!