3 simple steps to kick off a productive work day

Whether you are working from home or are back in the office, how you start your work day but can really shape how the rest of your work day goes, so kicking your work day off the right is important. Here are three simple steps you can take to give yourself the best shot at a productive day:

1. Know your key tasks

3 simple steps to kick off a productive work day tasks

As you end your work time each day, take a couple of minutes to write down the key activities you need to do the following day. This isn't a huge list of random items, but a maximum of three key tasks that will help you work towards your goal or current project. Make the tasks specific and if the task is a huge one, break it down into workable size time chunks. So instead of having a huge, undefined task like write monthly report, break it down to something more like this:

  1. Undertake monthly analysis of forecast sales to actuals.
  2. Write first draft of monthly report.
  3. Edit and revise monthly report.

Breaking up bigger tasks like this not only makes it feel a bit less overwhelming, but it can also help your productivity through taking breaks between the tasks and then refocusing as a new study in the journal Cognition reveals:

This study is consistent with the idea that the brain is built to detect and respond to change, Lleras said, and suggests that prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance.

"We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused," he said. "From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!"

2. Work on the hardest task first

3 simple steps to kick off a productive work day hard tasks first

Brian Tracy is the author of the best selling book, Eat That Frog!
Get More of the Important Things Done - Today!, and he explains that if your first task each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing that is probably the worst thing that you are going to have to do that day. The frog of course for us isn't a real frog, but it represents our most important and often the hardest task on our list and the one we are most likely to procrastinate on.

When we look at our task lists, even if it has only three items on it, most of us will lean towards doing the easiest task first, avoiding the tasks we dislike or that challenge us. But we know the task is hanging over our head and we are going to have to do it anyway, so it is best to tackle it first off, without procrastinating about it and doing it when we have the most energy.

3. Cue yourself into the task

3 simple steps to kick off a productive work day music

Going from zero to 100 effort level in anything is challenging, so having a series of mini steps you take to get yourself ready or cue yourself into a hard task can help get you ready for the work. To those parents out there, think about how we set up bedtime routine to cue the kids to go to sleep - bath, story, bed! This is the same principle, but aimed to get our brains ready to do hard work.

My lead up routine to doing hard tasks looks like this:

  1. Close all unnecessary tabs and applications on my computer.
  2. Put my phone in another room.
  3. Note down the time, as I tend to work in one hour blocks.
  4. Put on a playlist for deep work.
  5. Get going!
The exact steps you take are not as important as doing them consistently before your hard work, so it begins to cue your brain that it is time to get to work.

Not everyone likes to listen to music while working, but it works for me. I am by no means a classical music aficionado, but I do love the music of Ludovico Einaudi. He is an Italian pianist and composer and I find his music fantastic to listen to when I am writing.

I have put together a new playlist on the Adapt Drinks Spotify account called Classical Concentration. It is a collection of classical tracks by Ludovico Einaudi which you might find helps you concentrate as you work. If you have a listen, I would love to know what you think. Or if you have a playlist that you listen to which helps you concentrate while working, feel free to share.