Cheat Sheet: How to Have the Best, Most Productive Workday Ever



We all have off days at work, and sometimes they’re simply unavoidable. I mean, after all, you can’t help the fact that six people in the office caught some horrific stomach bug the day before a giant assignment was due and left lucky, healthy you with enough work to make you want to crawl into a hole and die. But there are some aspects of your day that you can control: what you do when you first open your eyes in the morning, how you organize your breaks, how you fuel for the day. So below, your cheat sheet for how to have the best, most productive, dare I say enjoyable workday, even when you’re crazy busy.

1. First off, read this: “How to Be More Productive and Get Everything Done

Way back in 2012, we tapped into the brain of Julie Cohen, career coach extraordinaire, to soak up all her tips for being as productive as you can at work and in life without — and, here’s the key — being a miserable robot. One noteworthy takeaway, a question she tells you to ask yourself, is this: Am I putting the right fuel in the tank to be able to get everything done that needs to get done? (And she’s not just talking about breakfast.)

2. Speaking of breakfast, get breakfast out of the way the night before

If skipping breakfast turns you into a hangry, unfocused two-year-old come 10 a.m., make sure to always have some grab-and-go morning fuel in your fridge by whipping up a make-ahead breakfast the night before. From overnight oats to freezer-friendly egg sandwiches, the online recipe well is basically bottomless.

3. Try not to do any of these things before you head out the door

If the very first thing you do when you lift your head from your pillow in the morning is check your email, you need to stop doing that, like, yesterday. For one, it can throw you into panic mode before you even get into the office, and two, when you are still groggy from having you know, having just opened your eyes, you’re more likely to make mistakes. And that’s just one of the five things experts say to cut out of your morning to have a more productive day in the end.

4. When you sit down at your desk, turn your phone on silent

Nothing has saved my sanity and upped my ability to get stuff done more than permanently turning my phone on silent. Vibrations — or god forbid a ding sound! — are just so freakin’ distracting, and a simple notification from Twitter almost always sends me into a deep, dark Internet hole that I emerge from 20 minutes later, having crossed nothing off of my to-do list. If you can relate, turn your phone on silent, if not forever than just when you’re at your desk. Seriously, it works wonders.

5. Take a mid-morning break

Most of us wait until 3 p.m., when we’re nodding of at our desks and praying someone will come inject a Treinta-sized Starbucks latte into our veins, to take a break. But a new small new study done by researchers at Baylor University found that the best time to take some midday me time is actually way earlier in the day, midmorning, before you’ve bottomed out in the energy department. The study found that midmorning breaks left folks more energized, more concentrated and more motivated than afternoon breaks, even after controlling for the fact that people are generally more awake in the morning.

6. Pack a mason jar salad for lunch – trust us

Mason jar salads are Pinterest’s gift to earth: You can make a bunch of them ahead of time and grab one on your way out the door in the morning; all the layering involved keeps ingredients from getting soggy and gross; and they are oh-so-Instagram-worthy to boot. Plus, you can squeeze so much good stuff — from quinoa to beans to spinach to grilled chicken — into them, guaranteeing you won’t get hungry for the rest of the afternoon and will be able to focus on the work in front of you rather than dreaming of a Little Baby’s milkshake.

7. Whatever you do, don’t — we repeat, DON’T — eat your lunch at your desk

I know, I know: Why move when you can shove your quinoa salad or chickpea wrap or leftover three-bean chili straight into your face from the comfort of your desk chair? Well, here’s why: For one, eating at your desk can make you feel both stressed and socially isolated, both of which up your early-death chance (yikes). Plus, people who eat at their desks end up consuming more calories than those who flee the coop for a few minutes. And feeling down and way too full won’t do any wonders for your workday, are we right?

8. Slip under your desk for a nap

A study out of the University of Michigan found that folks who got some midday shut-eye in were way more persistent — twice as persistent, actually — when it came to solving difficult problems than those who just pushed through the day without any rest. So, take a nap. (And tell your boss they’ll thank you later.) And don’t forget to set your alarm for 20 minutes from when you close your eyes; veering into the 30 to 60-minute nap territory can leave you feeling more tired when you wake up.

9. Or go for a midday walk

A recent study found that folks who broke their workday up with a midday walk felt significantly less tense and more enthusiastic, positive and energetic when they sat back down at their desks, leaving them in a better state of mind to knock work out throughout the afternoon.

10. Unwind the right way before bed

A bad night’s sleep is like the Grim Reaper for a productive workday. And with our phones and tablets never out of reach, getting a good night’s sleep is way harder than it used to be. (Because Instagram addiction and vibrations, duh.) So, to figure out how to unwind the right way (No, a 30 Rock marathon does not count), we got seven Philly yoga pros — arguably the most zen people we know — to dish on how they unwind before bed to ensure a great night’s sleep. The number one running theme throughout? Taking a moment to be grateful. Easy enough, right? And totally worth a try to make sure tomorrow is awesome, too.

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