the perfect schedule for productivity

Imagine if there was a way to structure your day so that you could be 10x more productive.

Imagine if the things you needed to do to achieve that level of productivity weren’t even that hard.

What if all that you needed to do was create a few small habits in the morning, alter your day at work a little, and do a few small things at night.

Nothing drastic at all. Just being more mindful and building habits into your routine.

That’s it.

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.H. Jackson Brown Jr.

We all have the same amount of time in the day as everyone else. The trick then, is to optimize what you do with that time.

In this post, I’ll share exactly what you need to do to create the perfect daily schedule for ultimate productivity.

The first thing that you need to understand, before looking at any tips, is it’s important to change your mindset. It’s all about working smarter, not harder. There’s no need to multitask, no need to work extra long hours.

I’ve even argued that working 40 hours a week isn’t even necessary if you can be efficient in what you do. There are plenty of examples of companies making this work.

One of my favorites is Treehouse. I chatted with Ryan Carson, the CEO of Treehouse, to learn more about how they can possibly be so successful and only work 4 days a week.

The Power Of The Morning Routine

It all starts in the morning.

The things you do in the first hour or two of when you wake up will set you up for the rest of your day.

You can choose to either waste it by checking Facebook, or take advantage of it by doing things like exercising and eating healthy.

Remember that your energy and willpower are the highest at the beginning of the day, so take advantage of that.

Here are a few things I’d recommend doing from the time you wake up to the time you go to work.

  1. Eat a good, healthy breakfast. Eggs, fruit, oatmeal, avocado are all things that will boost your productivity. Do NOT skip breakfast. Your productivity will be ruined for the day.
  2. Exercise. It doesn’t have to be much. If you can go outside for a 15-20 minute run, that’s amazing, but even if you do a few pushups and situps in your room, that’s fine too. The key is to boost your energy to get your day started.
  3. Meditate. Again, this doesn’t have to be for long and doesn’t require much. You just want to take 10 minutes of silence to calm yourself down and set yourself up for a productive, happy day.
  4. Read something intellectual. I don’t mean checking Facebook or Buzzfeed’s top 10 lists. I mean something that will help you grow and advance as a person.

All of these things set you up for a productive day.

What time you wake up and get started on this is not that important. The important part is being consistent and building these things as habits into your life.

You want to get into work full of energy, ready to get the most out of your time there.

The Perfect Way To Work

Unfortunately, many people try to “power through” their days, even working during their lunch hours.

This leads to work that needs to be rechecked and sometimes redone.

Also, there are so many distractions in a given day, both personal and professional.

The best way to work then, is to work around your energy levels (instead of powering through) and remove as many distractions as possible.

Let’s look at the three most common approaches to doing this.

  1. The Pomodoro Technique

    The Pomodoro Technique was invented by Italian entrepreneur Francesco Cirillo in the early 90s. It’s called “Pomodoro” after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his time.

    It’s a method of working to stay super focused on one single thing at a time. The only thing you need is a timer and to block out all distractions.

    The technique is very simple.

    1. Set the timer for 25 minutes
    2. Work on only one task until you hear the timer ring
    3. Take a short break (5 minutes)
    4. Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (15-20 minutes)
  2. The Ultradian Rhythm

    More than 50 years ago, a sleep researcher named Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that at night when we sleep, we go through a period of light to deep, then back to light.

    This process takes 90 minutes.

    He later discovered that our bodies operate by the same 90-minute rhythm during the day.

    When we’re awake, the movement is from higher to lower alertness. This is what’s known as our “ultradian rhythm.”

    ultradian rhythm

    The way you work here is through 90-minute sprints and then take a 20-minute break.

  3. 52-Minute Sprints

    A study conducted by the Draugiem Group used a computer application called DeskTime to track employees’ work habits. They measured how much time people spent on various tasks and compared this to their productivity levels.

    The study discovered something fascinating:

    The length of the workday didn’t matter. More important was how people structured their day. In particular, people who were religious about taking short breaks were far more productive than those who worked longer hours.

    The most productive workers in their study worked for 52-minute sprints, followed by a 17-minute break.

The thing that all of these techniques have in common is a focused, deliberate effort of work for a set period of time and then a break.

It doesn’t necessarily matter which one of these you choose, or if you create your own, but the key is to work for a set amount of time on one thing and then take a break.

The break is the most important part because it allows you to recharge and get ready for the next sprint.

The Importance Of Breaks At Work

In the study by the Draugiem Group, the key finding was that the most productive people were great at taking breaks.

I can’t stress this enough – the key is in the breaks.

  • You need to take them religiously
  • You need to use them well, don’t just sit there checking Facebook

Here’s what I’d recommend you do on your breaks.

  1. Go for a walk, it’s been shown to make you more creative
  2. Do desk stretches, they’re important for keeping your body in good shape
  3. Go chat with a coworker, friends at work are a huge part of your happiness at work
  4. Meditate. The power of meditation is huge, and you really don’t need a lot of time to see the effects
  5. Go get a glass of water. Many people forget to stay hydrated at work

The Nighttime Routine

There are a few key things that you can do at night that will help you get set up for the next day.

Sleep is so important for your productivity, so you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to both get a good sleep and get a good start the next morning.

Here are four things that you should do at night to make sure you’re optimizing your nighttime routine.

  1. Review Your Day

    Take a few minutes to think back on your day and if you can, list three things you’re proud of accomplishing that day. They can be small things, but that reflection will increase your happiness and gratitude.

  2. Set Goals For The Next Day

    You’ll be able to get a head start on your day if the night before you already plan two or three things that you’d like to accomplish.

    Write them down, and check them when you wake up.

  3. Optimize For The Best Sleep

    Sleep is so important to your health and productivity, you should do everything you can to have the best sleep possible.

    That means don’t check your phone before bed, don’t watch TV right before bed, make your room as dark as possible, etc.

    Do everything you can to make sure you get a good sleep.

Key Takeaways

  • Wake up without checking emails or Facebook
  • Have a good morning routine: eat a healthy breakfast, exercise, meditate
  • Work in sprints, working on only one thing at a time
  • Take frequent breaks at work and use them wisely
  • Don’t work overtime or try to multitask, it just doesn’t work
  • At night, review your day and do your best to get a good night’s sleep
  • Build these routines as habits

Your Turn: What Schedule Do You Use For Your Day?

Let us know your tips for a productive workday in the comments below!