How to be more productive at work

8 min read | Rosalyn Palmer | Article | Career development

Woman working at desk and covering eyes with her hands

Looking for ways to be more productive at work? Think beyond to-do lists, calendars and extra cups of coffee. Try these simple lifestyle tips instead. 

You start each day with a plan to get so much done, but soon find yourself becoming distracted, focusing on low-priority tasks and, simply, procrastinating. So, how can you regain control of your time? One-size-fits-all lists on how to be more productive don’t work; we’ll outline productivity techniques that you can incorporate into your routine.

While this certainly isn’t a recipe for a productive day, it might just be the tip of the iceberg for how we can improve performance at work.


Increasing productivity at work - what you need to know at a glance

Achieving a work-life balance can seem impossible, while the very act of trying to attain it can leave you depleted of energy. And despite the long hours you’ve put in, that unhelpful voice in your head tells you that you’re a procrastinator, leaving you not only tired, but also demoralised. 

If you search online for ‘Productivity Hacks’, you’ll see that being productive is down to many things, including:

  • The importance of energy management
  • Cognitive, physical and sensory energy boosters
  • Being centred and changing your mindset
  • Workflow productivity hacks

Looking for small but simple ways to increase productivity? Keep scrolling to find out more.


3 ways to be more productive at work

1. Eat healthy foods throughout the day

Imagine you eat a chocolate bar versus a fruit and nut bar - which do you think is going to give you the energy necessary to avoid the mid-afternoon slump? Eating healthy foods not only affects our weight, but also leads to an increase in productivity, energy and brainpower. 

Consider eating a varied diet that consists of whole foods, plant-based foods, healthy fats, omega 3 fats, grass-fed protein or natural protein that provides amino acids. This will ensure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to reduce the risk of deficiencies that cause lethargy. 

In 2019, over 100 million Americans (1 in 3) cited depression as an issue. The causes of it are many and can compromise both your physical and mental health. So, when looking at your diet, you need to be mindful of:

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Folic Acid deficiency
  • Gluten intolerance
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Omega 6 fats from processed oils

Don’t forget, you should also aim to drink 8-10 glasses of water per day. Start to replace your usual teas, coffees and sugary drinks with water (or herbal teas if you fancy it) to avoid dehydration and support digestion.

Remember: sometimes we confuse hunger for thirst. Drinking a large glass of water half an hour before eating will help you to focus on what your body really needs. 

2. Incorporate exercise into your routine

Exercise and work productivity go hand in hand. Together, they can help to increase your overall mood and alertness. Remember: our bodies were designed to move, and we now do not move enough. If you simply don’t have time to put in a full workout each day, make small changes to your daily routine instead. 

Make sure that you move each hour by stretching or walking around. Prevent headaches by soaking up some oxygen: find a private space and stretch or deliberately yawn for a minute or two. From stretching every hour, to walking around the block at lunch, small changes will make a huge difference over time. 

Struggling to find motivation to exercise? It’s important to tap into your reason for this. Here’s how:

  1. Write down all the personal reasons why you’d like to look and feel better through exercise.
  2. Now write down all the possible outcomes of not exercising.
  3. Take a moment to think how looking better and being healthier will make you feel.
  4. Now take a moment to write down how the outcomes of not exercising will make you feel. 
  5. Work out how to make exercise fun. For me, it’s rebounding on a mini trampoline to loud 80s music or joining an online class with a teacher I love. Tracking your exercise progress is key. And, most importantly, keep a note of your energy levels at points in the day (scale of 1-10) and journal the changes. 

3. Recharge through sleep

Trying to work while underslept can significantly impact job performance. Without enough sleep, processes throughout the body work suboptimally. The brain becomes overworked, impairing thinking, slowing physical reactions, and leaving people feeling emotionally drained. These short-term side effects of sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on a day’s work.

Here’s how you can ensure a good night’s sleep:

  • Ensure your room is dark, cool and quiet
  • Remove as many digital devices as possible
  • Make sure your bed is clean and comfortable
  • Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes and food before sleep
  • Avoid intense sport close to bedtime
  • Write down everything that’s on your mind and then put the list aside
  • Use the 12-hour Board Meeting hack. If you wake up at 2am with something on your mind, write it down immediately then say to your subconscious: “Thanks for that. I’ll schedule a board meeting with myself in 12 hours at 2pm when I’m fully awake and able to deal with it well”.
  • Have a glass of water by your bed that you can drink to hydrate your body when you awake. 


Things to remember about increasing productivity at work

All workers and workdays are unique. With fewer companies and employees adhering to a traditional 9-to-5 day and more people hybrid working, our workdays and personal life are becoming more blurred. By making a few simple lifestyle changes - eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and improving sleep - you can improve your overall productivity, mood and energy.

As your lifelong career partner, we are with you every step of the way and will be updating this site regularly with new guides, blogs and information. Browse our career advice online.

About this author

Rosalyn Palmer is a Transformational Coach and Therapist, based in the UK. She has an international teletherapy private practice and is a wellbeing expert on radio show, Girls Around Town, and regularly features on podcasts for her easy-to-understand mental health advice. 

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