5 things that are wrong with your daily work routine (and how to improve them)

By Stacy Warden on September 8, 2015

You keep a to-do list, you listen to your circadian rhythm and you take notes at every meeting. You do all of these things and more -- yet, somehow, you’re drained by noon, you’ve overlooked a vital detail in your latest project, and your creative muscle feels as though it hasn’t been flexed in months. Here are five things to note in your daily routine, along with tips on how you can work to improve them.

1. Problem: Your scheduled is swamped

Solution: Mind the gaps

Chances are you have more  time in your schedule than you ever knew existed before. In fact, you probably have as much as a solid 30 minutes to work with. In a recent HBR article, Productivity Expert Jordan Cohen recommends starting the day by identifying the gaps in your schedule. From there, he suggests scheduling whatever tasks you want to accomplish directly to your calendar. And, finally, Cohen says that you can hold yourself accountable by comparing your scheduled tasks against those you’ve actually completed at the end of the day.

2. Problem: Your goals are at a standstill

Solution: Share your ideas

Whether you’re having issues making it through an entire to-do list or reaching those loftier career goals, you need to find a way to hold yourself accountable. If you’re the only one who knows about your daily tasks or your big-picture plans, you’re already setting yourself up for failure. Instead of trying to power through in silence, go ahead and share these things with your family, friends or coworkers. Take it a step further by asking someone close to you to check in with you regularly on your progress.

3. Problem: Your focus is frazzled

Solution: Schedule mini breaks

Sometimes, the answer is much closer than you think -- and the problem may actually be that you're thinking a bit too hard. This is a big issue for many people in tech, thanks to those late nights spent coding, troubleshooting and trying to eke out enough time for those side projects. Before you lose your cool (along with another night of sleep), crack open your schedule and pen in some mini breaks. For every hour you work, give yourself 10 minutes to get up, take a walk and give your  noggin a much needed rest. Of course, it doesn't have to be 10 minutes for every hour; you can come up with your own routine -- just make sure you stick to it. The point is to mentally unwind throughout the day, so that you can get back to your desk with a fresh perspective on your work.

4. Problem: You're often distracted

Solution: Rethink your workspace

If you’re in an open office, surrounded by constant chaos, there may not be too much you can do to revamp your surroundings. (However, there are still some clever tips and tricks you can use to eliminate those specific distractions.) But if you're lucky enough to have your own designated workspace, make sure to keep it clean and organized, as a cluttered environment can wreak havoc on your mental energy and creative wherewithal. Oh, and by the way, this rule applies to those who work remotely too; make sure that you have a defined, organized space that you associate with work -- and let’s just forget about café-hopping, we all know how much time is lost just searching for a reliable outlet. You should also eliminate the less tangible distractions while you're on the lock like social networking, online shopping and yes, even redditing (go ahead and schedule these into your mini breaks, if you must). 

5. Problem: Your energy level is low

Solution: Check your diet and your exercise routine

While it may not seem like a standard part of your work routine, your diet and your level of physical activity play a major role in every minute of your day. It's essential to eat whole foods that are rich in nutrients, and skip the processed junk whenever possible. If you haven't already adopted a regular exercise routine, start right now -- heck, simply opting for a standing desk can work wonders for your health. If your company won't foot the bill for one, try a makeshift version (IKEA apparently works wonders for this). Those who work remotely can easily fashion their own standing desk by simply propping the laptop on a dresser or a counter-height island. Get up and stretch whenever possible (another great way to take advantage of those mini-breaks), hit the gym, watch one of those ridiculous kickboxing videos. Bottom line: Make sure you're moving throughout the day.

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Stacy Warden

Stacy Warden is a contributing editor of the Pluralsight blog and has worked in publishing since the dawn of the iPhone. Currently, Stacy deals in tech and education--a combination that she finds absolutely fascinating. You can find her on Twitter @sterrsi.