A Productive Day: Two Strategies to Increase Productivity and Focus
Updated: Aug 8, 2022
Two key strategies to improve attention, focus, and energy for a productive day.
You’re ambitious. Goal oriented. You know what you want to accomplish in your life.
But, there’s a problem.
You’re having difficulty with focus, attention, and productivity in the workplace. So frustrating, right?
There are so many reasons that we may not be as productive as we would like. These are often connected to our routine, stress levels, and how we structure our day.
The good news is, there is a lot that can be done to increase your productivity and to help you accomplish all of your goals.
Yep, that’s right. You can be that high achieving hustler, taking your day by storm.
We do this by:
1) Understanding reasons for poor productivity
2) Managing stress and improving our lifestyle for optimal focus
3) Structuring our time effectively
A Productive Day: Things That Get in the Way
There is nothing more frustrating than knowing exactly what you want to do and being capable of doing it, but not getting it done in the way that you like.
Understanding the reasons for low productivity can be helpful so we know what to address to change things.
Here are some likely reasons you are not having a productive day in the way that you would like:
Poorly Managed Stress
When the stress response gets activated in the body, a series of physiological changes follow. This includes increased heart rate and blood pressure, muscle tension, decreased cognitive abilities, and digestive issues.
Poorly managed stress causes this stress response to activate frequently, which can also be very draining and result in low energy.
Ever tried to be productive when your stomach is hurting, your neck and shoulders are tense, or you have no energy? I’m guessing that you were not very productive. And probably frustrated.
For this reason, preventing and managing high stress is a crucial component of high attention, concentration, and productivity.
When we are stressed, overwhelmed, or are not sure where to start, this can result in procrastination. However, procrastination further increases stress and overwhelm, making us less likely to start the things that we need to do.
This results in decreased productivity or accomplishing tasks under a high level of anxiety if we wait until the last minute.
Lack of Structure
The brain likes structure and some level of predictability. When we do not properly structure our day and plan ahead, this can cause us to feel more overwhelmed, to procrastinate, and have difficulty starting tasks.
Sleep is highly underrated when it comes to our energy, mood, attention, and productivity.
When we don’t sleep well, we are naturally more tired, low energy, and distracted. Poor sleep can also increase stress and anxiety, further decreasing productivity.
Lack of quality sleep is a big reason for poor productivity.
Lack of Balanced Eating
It is important to think about food as fuel. The foods that we eat are directly related to how we feel. When we eat nutritious and balanced meals, we are more likely to feel energized and focused.
On the flipside, if we are skipping meals and eating meals that lack nutrition, our cognitive abilities and energy are going to suffer.
When we do not eat balanced meals, this can also cause drops in blood sugar. Drops in blood sugar cause low energy, inattention, and anxiety-like symptoms.
Physical activity helps improve attention, focus, and energy levels. Exercise increases blood flow, improving cognitive ability. It also reduces stress and improves sleep, two important factors in a productive day.
Therefore, if we are inactive and not moving our body much, we are unlikely to function at our maximum potential.
Manage Stress for a Productive Day
One of the best ways to have a more productive day is by managing stress. This includes doing things for both prevention and management of stress so it does not interfere with our energy, mood, and productivity.
Calm the Stress Response
One of the best ways to manage stress is to calm the stress response. As mentioned above, when the stress response gets activated, it results in a series of physiological changes that can be very distracting.
Regularly calming the stress response with deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation is an excellent way to both prevent and manage high stress by teaching the nervous system to be more regulated and calm.
Incorporate Physical Activity
Incorporating physical activity is one of the best ways to manage stress, improve mood, and also improve cognitive functioning.
The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of activity per day, or 150 minutes per week for optimal health.
If you are not there yet, start by engaging in an activity you enjoy 1 to 2 days per week. Setting specific and realistic goals is an important piece of incorporating physical activity into your routine in a consistent way so you can see the benefits.
Eat Balanced Meals
Because drops in blood sugar from eating highly processed foods or unbalanced meals can mimic stress and anxiety like symptoms, eating balanced meals is an important part of managing stress and improving cognitive abilities overall.
Try to incorporate a combination of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs into your meals for stable blood sugar and better attention and focus.
Structure Your Time for a More Productive Day
An important aspect of increasing productivity is structuring the day and planning ahead. While it can be tempting to figure out the day the morning of, this can result in higher stress, procrastination, and difficulty starting anything.
Before the start of the work week, spend 15 to 20 minutes planning your week. Prioritize your most important projects and to do items and set a specific plan for doing them. This can help set you up for success during the week and also allow you to start the week on a calm note.
Start your day by being even more specific about the tasks that you will complete. Either start with easy tasks that you can cross off your list, or start by tackling the harder or more complex tasks first thing in the morning when your attention and concentration is likely better.
In order for you to get the most out of structuring your day and accomplishing what you want, it is very important to minimize distractions.
If possible, turn off notifications on your phone related to social media. Every time you get a notification, this can distract you and take you away from what you are doing.
Alternatively, if you do not want to stop notifications, set your phone to do not disturb while you are working. This will minimize distractions while you are working and allow you to see notifications once you are ready for a break.
Plan for Breaks
On the topic of breaks, it is important to give your mind a chance to recover and recuperate. Therefore, scheduling short breaks throughout the day can be helpful in improving attention and concentration.
This may consist of going for a short walk, listening to music, taking some deep breaths, or anything else that you find rejuvenating and relaxing.
Productivity is far more than just what you need to accomplish, your motivation, or your ambition. As you can see, there are many lifestyle factors that can decrease productivity, alertness, and focus.
Focus on managing stress and the components related to managing stress, as well as structuring your day and minimizing distractions to improve attention and focus and function at your maximum productivity.
High stress or poor sleep getting in the way of your productivity and true potential? My 1:1 coaching program helps you to prevent and manage stress to step into your best and most productive self.
Book a discovery call if you are ready to stop struggling with stress and low productivity, now.
----About Dr. Julia
Hi! I'm Dr. Julia. Health psychologist, stress and sleep expert, and creator of the Master Stress Method.
I have worked with thousands of individuals in major hospitals, university medical centers, and primary care settings to improve their stress levels, sleep, and overall emotional and physical well being.
My current focus is helping busy professionals prevent and manage the high stress that is getting in the way of their productivity, mood, sleep, and their ability to reach their full potential.
My 8-week, 1:1 coaching program has helped hundreds of stressed out, overwhelmed, and burned out clients significantly reduce their stress and anxiety, improve their sleep, and maximize their productivity, in just 8 short weeks.
I can't wait to help you stop the struggle with stress, for good. Let's chat :)