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The main secret of having a productive day (and the tips to get you there)

How to have a productive day?
Blaz Kos
9 minute read

Have you ever asked yourself what a productive day looks like for you personally? If you define it and write down the main points, you might find that the gap between your average day and a productive day isn’t really that big. 

All it takes is a little bit more effort at self-organization to turn almost every average day into a super productive one. The clearer the picture you have about your expectations regarding a productive day, the higher the probability is that you will really get there. 

The first step to success in anything is having a clear goal in mind. That’s why defining your ideal productive day is so important and why we put it as the first step to becoming more productive.

Even though having a productive day is slightly different for every one of us, there is some common grounds on what makes a day really productive. 

In this blog post, we’ll try to define that, so you can create your own version. Besides defining what productive day should look like, you’ll also find some really great tips on how to get there.

What does a productive day look like?

We’re all different, but still there are three common elements that a productive day should consist of:

  • You need to create value (to contribute and execute the important tasks)
  • You need to grow as a person (learn and experience something new)
  • You need to enjoy the day (connect with other people, find meaning in your work etc.)

When we think of a productive day, we usually focus only on number one from this list - creating value. Creating value simply means being organized in such a way as to execute as many important tasks as possible in a day. 

Delivering stuff, getting your tasks done – those are the most important aspects of a productive day. However, it’s not enough just to feel that you got the most out of a day.

While performing tasks and delivering value it’s also important that you grow and learn new things. You’re much more productive when you are in a positive emotional state than a negative one. 

That means that if you want to have a highly productive day, you also need to enjoy the activities that you do, or at least the majority of them. You need to find some meaning in your work, and that work needs to be at least a little bit out of your comfort zone.

1. A productive day starts with good self-organization and creating value

The absolute most important part of a productive day is being highly organized in a way that enables you to focus and perform the most important tasks.

The most important tasks are the ones that create the most value (in business), namely the ones that are the most appreciated by your boss, organization, customers or whomever you create value for (whomever pays for your work).

Here are a few great tips on how to stay highly organized each day:

  • In the morning (or a day before) write down the 3 – 5 the most important tasks for the day. Use a to-do list or Kanban system to properly organize and prioritize your tasks.
  • Start with the most demanding tasks in the morning (the concept known as “eat that frog”).
  • Eliminate all distraction so you can work in peace at least two times per day for 2 hours. Make sure nothing gets between you and delivering the output. Timebox time to work in peace.
  • Don’t waste too much time on social media, email, instant messaging etc. and make sure technology works in your favour.

A good time tracking tool can definitely be a great help in not wasting too much of your time. If you track your time, you can get a very good analysis of where and how you waste it, enabling you to better optimize your priorities and create your ideal productive day. 

With a time-tracker you will also be much more mindful of how you spend your time.

One more thing: Here’s a list of 50+ time management techniques that can definitely help you to have a productive day. Different techniques work best for different people, so explore these techniques, test them, and find the ones that work best for you. 

The bottom line is to practice self-discipline and focus on a few important tasks per day. Do this and your productivity will skyrocket.

1.1. Find meaning in your daily work

There’s a psychological reason why creating value is the most important part of a productive day. 

Not only is it that being a good performer opens the door to bonuses, promotions, new business, etc., it’s also because self-esteem and self-actualization are closely connected to creating and contributing, because they fulfil the need for achievement, respect, self-confidence, problem-solving and creativity. They also sit at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

We’re much more productive and get much more out of a day if we approach it with a positive outlook and good feelings, and enjoy the things that we are doing. 

It’s not about being happy all the time, but rather about finding some kind of mission or purpose in our work that makes our working hours much more than just that.

The start with why concept can help you with finding meaning in your work. By asking yourself “why” in the right way, you can frame your job in a way that motivates you more and gives meaning to the things you do. 

For example: A hairdresser can see their job as simply cutting hair day by day, or they can see it as a personal mission - to create perfect looks for people, help them feel more self-confident because of an awesome outlook, to meet new, interesting people on a daily basis and so on.

2. A productive day is a day when you grow as a person

To feel good about yourself at the end of a given day, you also need to clearly see the progress you’re making in life. One kind of progress is the external, namely promotions, bonuses, taking on more responsibilities etc. 

The other kind of progress is personal development, i.e., improving yourself on a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual level on a daily basis (it’s called sharpening the saw). That’s another cherry on top of a productive day.

There are many ways and directions to take to improve yourself and grow. You have to find what kind of activities contribute the most to having a productive day in a specific period of your life. For one person that may be morning meditation or exercise, for someone else, it might be learning new things and sharing knowledge on blog posts. 

Becoming the best version of yourself is an important part of life. Thus, daily progress towards better versions of you is an important aspect of each and every day in order to make it really productive.

There is a simple rule in life: either you move forward, or you go backwards - and going forward feels much better. It feels productive. Growing, improving, having a positive outlook and having a plan for what to fight for brings feelings of fulfilment and excitement to your life. 

Not only this, but it also makes a productive day. Thus, your every day should consist of activities that enable you to grow and evolve. If you can “learn while you earn”, meaning that you grow while doing your job, it’s even better since you kill two birds with one stone.

3. There’s no productive day without some enjoyment

Besides, creating and growing, there’s one more important reason why we’re here that should also be a building block of a productive day, and that’s to enjoy life. Hard work and creating value are only one side of the coin. 

The other side is playing, relaxing and simply enjoying the big and small things in life. To have a productive day, you must not forget to take enough time to rest, recover, and do other things in a day that you enjoy besides work.

If we don’t take time for rest and recovery, in the long run our productivity declines. It gets harder and harder to stay organized, disciplined, and to work productively. 

  • Getting enough sleep, 
  • having at least one hour of play time per day (without any guilt), 
  • taking enough breaks during the working day and 
  • minding our physical shape 

... are very important aspects of staying productive and having productive days. Never neglect your physical or mental health and make sure you take good care of yourself.

4. Having good relationships is an important part of a productive day

The last aspect of a productive day worth mentioning is relationships. In business, if we have good relationships, if we are team players and get along with our boss and co-workers, not only are we more productive - we are also much more excited about our time spent at work.

In the same vein, if we have good relationships at home, don’t cause too many fights or drama, and we do different activities together with people we love, we create the nicest memories possible, and there’s no productive day without nice memories.

To be productive, happy and fulfilled, you need to have good relationships in your life. You need strong connections with your co-workers, your boss and other stakeholders, as well as with your spouse, your kids and your friends. 

When you’ve got all that, you’ve achieved the ultimate goal: you can’t wait to get to work, and you can’t wait to get back home.

Having deep and loving connections doesn’t just happen by itself, it’s something you need to fight and work hard for. Being a good communicator is the key to everything in relationships. A lack of communication leads to misunderstandings in expectations as well as arguing and insecurity. 

Contributing to relationships means investing your time, energy, heart, creativity and other resources; and if there’s mutual contribution and respect, it’s another valuable dimension you can bring to a productive day.

Make your average day a super productive day

In summary, to have a productive day you should organize yourself in a way that creates as much value as possible while constructively collaborating with others, pushing yourself out of the comfort zone, and enjoying the work you do. 

At the same time, you should put limits on work and not forget about rest, recovery, and spending quality time with the people that mean the most in your life.

The main killers of a productive day are: constant distractions (like email, social media etc.) that don’t let you do the important tasks in peace, working to the point of burnout and not taking care of yourself, and persistently creating drama in your personal and professional life.

Every 16 hours we get a new chance to have an ideally productive day. You probably already do several of the things in this post and are not very far away. 

In most cases, if you organize yourself a little bit better, see the meaning and true value in your work, and focus on building a few strong relationships at work and home, you can rock each and every day.

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