9 Ways To Have a Productive Work Day

by Angela (Oh She Glows) on July 6, 2011

I recently read an article about productivity at work and I thought it would make a fun post.

Savvy Sugar reports that the average woman’s work day consists of 35% ‘productive work’.

Where does the rest go?

  • Email 20.8%
  • Looking for stuff 18.75%
  • Interruptions12.5%
  • Internet searches 13%


[If you ask me, email, looking for stuff, and interruptions are also work!]

I think most of us can agree that we wish there was more time in the day to get things accomplished. Here are some of my favourite tips and tricks for maximizing the work day productivity!


1. Cross it off

Before you go to sleep, make a list of what you want to accomplish the next day, starting with the most important things first. Make sure you include easy-to-accomplish tasks too! Crossing things off a list is fun and it gives you confidence to keep going.

Making a list before sleep is also thought to help you fall asleep faster because you are able to ‘empty’ your mind. Having a good night’s sleep is also crucial for a productive morning!


2. Make rising fun

Give yourself something to get excited about first thing in the morning so you feel eager to get out of bed. My motivation is usually spending time with Eric before he goes to work, a delicious breakfast, or even getting excited about an early morning workout. When I know the weather is nice, I pump myself up for a great run and imagine how good I will feel after. Oh, and Sketchie helps with rising…but you knew that already ;)

Other motivation: Peanut Butter and Jam Vegan Overnight Oats!



3. Get a buzz, but don’t overdo it.

Caffeine in the form of loose leaf Japanese Sencha Green tea always makes me feel focused within seconds without that jittery feeling. Occasionally, I also like to have a cup of French press coffee in the afternoon if I need a boost, especially when doing a boring task…like entering 170 recipes into Recipage!  Oh yes, I drank a lot of coffee to complete that mission!


4. Get the blood pumping

I’m not always successful at working out first thing in the morning, but when I do I feel my best all day long. I start my day feeling upbeat and accomplished! It helps if I pump myself up the night before, pick a few new workout songs, and also get my workout gear ready next to the bed. The easier I make it for myself to get up and go, the more likely I am to do it. I’ve never regretted a workout first thing in the morning.



5. Plan Breaks

Most people function best when they have regular mental and physical breaks to look forward to. When I’m doing a rather boring task like entering business expenses into Excel, I like to take a 5 minute break for every 30 minutes of work. I am able to focus much better when I give myself a stimulating break.

Make your break a reward time for you! Walk around to get blood flowing, do your desk stretches!!!, hit up your favourite websites, chat with a friend (talking actually stimulates and energizes your mind!), drink some water. Breaks keep my motivation high, happiness up, and I’m able to focus on the task without my mind wandering. If I can squeak out 50 minutes of productivity for every hour, I’m a happy girl!


6. Mid-Morning Fuel

When I workout in the morning, I typically like to have a small mid-morning snack to keep me going until lunch (which is usually around 1pm).

My fav snacks? Protein-packed hummus, crackers, and veggies or an apple and almond butter or ABU (image above).



7. Nix the email & Twitter compulsion

Email and social media is a huge time suck for many of us (you too, Grandma!). It’s not practical to say that you shouldn’t check your email in the morning, so what works for me is scheduling a certain amount of time for email at regular intervals. I devote a certain chunk of time to email in the morning and another chunk of time to email in the afternoon. By chunking email this way, I’m able to get a lot more accomplished instead of checking it every 10 minutes and then getting distracted. I used to start my day with email, but now I like to check a couple important things off my list before I even open it.

I’ve also stopped keeping Twitter open during the day. When I take a break, I may open it and spend a few minutes on it, but for the most part I get so much more done when it’s not distracting me!

8. Turn up the Baroque!

Studies show that you are able to concentrate better, relieve stress, block out noise, and improve communication when listening to Baroque music. The key is to listen to music that doesn’t have a beat. This way, it won’t be distracting and will create white noise blocking out all other sounds (like annoying coworkers!). Don’t know where to find it? Try Grooveshark– it’s free and easy to use.

9. Find Your Prime

Figure out when you work best and then schedule your toughest tasks around that time. I am 100% without a doubt, a morning worker. I have my most productive hours between 8am and 1pm. My mind is clear, I’m able to write, and I can crank out a to do list like nobody’s business. My alertness and focus starts to dwindle by mid-afternoon, so I typically reserve my baking/cooking and photography for the afternoon and keep my writing/desk tasks for the morning.

Find out what works for you and plan your day around your body’s cycles!


What are your tips for a productive (I just typed ‘reproductive’, whoops!!) morning? Share below!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

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Em Marie July 6, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Thanks for sharing! I’m definitely a list maker. I like the sense of accomplishment crossing things off! I try to get as much done before work. Then I can look forward to having my evenings free and I’ll usually be less distracted at work. But I HAVE to have a piece of paper and a pen within arms reach or I feel lost! I’m always thinking of things to check out or do!


Lexi @ A Spoonful of Sunshine July 6, 2011 at 9:44 pm

I love to-do lists! Maybe even a little bit too much, considering the fact that I wrote “make tomorrow’s to-do list” on today’s to-do list.

Confessions of a Type A girl… ;)


Kelly @ Laughter, Strength, and Food July 6, 2011 at 9:52 pm

This is such a great and helpful post! It’s really easy for me to get distracted at work, especially with the email and Twitter obsession! I find that making a list and getting big things out of the way first is the way to go for me. I like the feeling of getting those things out of the way first and gives me the motivation to tackle the little ones.


Amber @ Chicken and Chocolate July 6, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Perfectly timed post! I actually had to remind myself to get up, walk around, and stretch today at work and I felt so much better than yesterday! I just started a new job so the last two days have been spent sitting in front of a computer doing training. I was exhausted and achy yesterday after work, so today I made it a point to take breaks at least every hour to get my blood flowing again and rest my eyes. :)


Andrea July 6, 2011 at 10:12 pm

I must be in the minority because I hate lists, but I love post it notes. I randomly write down things to do that day or that week, stick them on the wall, then organize them by importance or like things. The best part is when that single item is done I get to take it down like a reward! I always admire list makers, married to one! I also prefer charts with boxes. I find when I make a list I forget where I put it then come back exhausted from “working” only to find I didn’t do any thing on the list but a whole bunch more, that is when I write those items down then cross them off :)


Kim July 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm

Was the increased coffee consumption recently? Wondering if link there to increased anxiety. I was struggling with anxiety a couple of months ago. Cut out caffeine (2 cups coffee in morning was all I drank) and bam! Waaay reduced anxiety. Mind you, it was like I was kicking heroin with the detox symptoms, but way better than anxiety. Best wishes on your journey to be anxiety free!


Emma July 7, 2011 at 2:24 am

Ooh I love the make to do list before bed one. I always go to sleep with my whole day and my plans for the next one replaying over and over in my head!!


Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes July 7, 2011 at 6:02 am

I think having a to do list is a great way to be productive, also crossing things off a list is always so satisfying! :)


Shay July 7, 2011 at 6:16 am

Have you ever tried mate tea? I’ve been eyeing it recently. It looks intriguing! It’s supposed to have the same stimulating feeling of caffeine without jitters and without the addictiveness of coffee. I’ve never tried sencha either, so that is going on my list as well!


Tichina July 7, 2011 at 7:18 am

Great tips! I’m going to try and put all of these into action today! Startinggggg…. now! :)


Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn July 7, 2011 at 9:50 am

I need to start making to-do lists again!!! I love these tips. I realllly need to work on my computer addiction! Aka, my TwitterAddiction. Hahaha thanks for the reminder girl ;)


Therese July 7, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Seeing as tomorrow is the close of my second week of working from home I’ve been quickly figuring out what works and what doesn’t for me. I downloaded an app for my computer, the free version of “Time Out” and set it up to completely grey out my computer for breaks. Every ten minutes it greys out for 15 seconds to force me to give myself a quick stretch and turn my eyes away from the screen. Every 50 minutes, it greys out my screen for ten minutes and I force myself to actually stand up, walk around and get away from the computer completely. It sends me a loud foghorn sound to get back to work!

I’m also a HUGE list checker and make my to-do tasks every single day and just work to check it off. I also stopped checking email and social media sites, sticking to doing it just once a day.

Speaking of which, I still have some stuff to finish up!


Tanya July 7, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Good tips!! Except for the Baroque music part :) I don’t really consider that “white noise”. As a musician, if I’m listening to classical music of any period, I pay a lot of attention to it. So I’ll have to pick something else…..maybe an actual white noise machine??

I definitely have to close my windows on my computer. I always have FB and Twitter, and lots of other things, always open. I suppose if I close them after checking them in the morning, I might be able to get more done…but I’m so sucked into my computer!!


Christine July 8, 2011 at 8:36 am

I love your blog more and more every day – it’s the one I save for last to read because it’s the best! Yesterday I saw the picture of the pb&j voo and thought about it all day and night. I made the oats this morning and waited what seemed like FOREVER. Then I made the cherry jam (I used dates to sweeten) and the peanut butter banana soft serve (*why* haven’t I tried this sooner?). I actually bothered to layer in a glass and I’m glad I did because I got a little of each layer in every bite. This is hands-down my favorite oat breakfast ever and I can’t wait to make it again tomorrow! Thanks for sharing! :-)


Orla July 8, 2011 at 8:38 am

I am a firm believer in putting things like Shower, Eat Breakfast, Dry Hair on my lists. I know they will get done anyway but it gets my mind into a state of enjoying acomplishment and makes me want to cross off all the things. With work I also allocate a time frame for each project with the longest I stick at one project being 45 minutes. I set a timer and if I have not yet completed the task, I take a water break, stretch and allocate some more time. The timer forces me to take breaks. I work in my own office so having a beeping timer isn’t an issue but people could use a screen flash reminder. i *heart* lists.


Tara @ Sweat like a Pig July 9, 2011 at 2:51 am

I think writing lists have their purpose, but they can also chew up too much time. For example, do you really need to write shower and eat breakfast on there? I’m sure you wouldn’t forget to do things like that!
Unfortunately, I’m a journalist that works off wires so I need to be constantly logged in to my email. If I check blogs during the day I can waste so much time though without even realising it!


Angela (Oh She Glows) July 9, 2011 at 8:17 am

I don’t normally write shower and breakfast on a to do list. It was simply there to show what my morning looked like, that’s all. :)


Sophie July 9, 2011 at 8:54 am

This is a great post, I’m definitely going to being using some of your tips in the future, I really want to start getting workouts in in the morning!
In case you’re wondering who I am :-P I’ve been reading for a while but have never commented before and now seeing how I have my own blog I thought I’d join in the fun :-)
Your blog is fantastic!


Emily July 9, 2011 at 9:17 am

Awesome tips! Thanks! I am working from home three days a week this summer and I am struggling staying focused without the possibility of someone walking by and seeing me totally unfocused!!!


Jessi @ Quirky Cookery July 27, 2011 at 4:12 pm

I know the idea behind having music without a beat and how it’s great white noise….but I find it doesn’t help me much. I end up feeling sleepy or it gets on my nerves, whereas something with a good beat might be a little more distracting, but it pumps me up and motivates me to get things done faster/better.


Mary September 25, 2015 at 6:25 am

Thank you for these tips, I will use them for sure! One more thing I would like to add is concerning schedule and to-do lists. I don’t like to-do lists but I have to keep all tasks to do in one place. That’s why I tried a lot of list apps, and the most affective for me was https://casual.pm/. It allows to create a visual map of the tasks and track the progress online. Hope, you will like it!


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