If you're going to spend a quarter of your life working you might as well be happy doing it. But it's the little daily habits that can make or break a work day. That's according to Tim Eisenhauer, president and co-founder of San Diego software provider Axero Solutions, a company with more than 790,000 customers served by a workforce that's entirely remote. Here are his ideas on how to be the most motivated and productive version of yourself.

1. Get enough sleep.

No matter how hard you think you're working, sleep deprivation will disrupt your workday. If you want energy and a good attitude you won't burn the candle at both ends. Most people need at least seven hours of sleep each night to perform optimally on the job. 

2. Ease into work.

When you roll out of bed and start working right away, your brain hasn't had time to wake up, and you could end up making mistakes. Smart people give themselves time each morning to mentally prepare for the day. Eat a real breakfast, enjoy your coffee or tea, meditate, exercise or read the news.   

3. Create a realistic task list.

Successful people uniformly rely on to-do lists to keep them accountable for reaching goals. However, if you have 100 things to do committing them all to paper can lead to stress, not to mention disappointment when you don't get them all done. Instead, prioritize your to-dos and assign them reasonable deadlines.

4. Hit the gym for a midday energy boost.

It's the best way to jumpstart your metabolism and keep your brain firing on all cylinders. If you're lucky enough to have a gym within walking or driving distance, 20 minutes on an elliptical or treadmill can be all it takes. A walk around the block will suffice, as well. Just get moving. 

5. Cut back on caffeine.

Coffee may be a simple pleasure, but like anything else it's best enjoyed in moderation. Not only can too much caffeine make a person feel rotten, it can disrupt your sleep. If you've already had your daily quota and a colleague asks you out for a coffee, opt for herbal tea.

6. Get a new office.

Meaning, change the environment in which you're working. Work from a coffee shop, picnic table outside or settled on top your comfortable bed. Switching things up is a great way to get out a slump.

7. Do not multitask.

Just because you can doesn't mean you should. People truly great at multitasking aren't actually working on ten things at once ― they divide work into subsections and prioritize one task over another. Dedicate your full attention to one task at a time. Juggling a bunch of things at once only distracts you from getting anything of substance done.   

8. Organize your space.

A messy desk or office is a productivity killer and akin to a cluttered mind. Spend some time on healthy procrastination and uncover your desk from the piles and unnecessary stuff covering it.

9. Take a break every hour.

Get up and stretch or strike up a conversation with a co-worker. Take your mind off your work so that you can return with a sense of clarity. 

10. Stay off time-wasting websites.

This is procrastination. Period. If you struggle resisting cat videos, Facebook or online shopping, try using extensions that block tempting sites. 

11. Start the day with your most difficult tasks.

When you do this your day only can get better as the hours pass. If you leave complex responsibilities for the end of the workday, you will be even less motivated to tackle them than you were at the start. Plus, you have more mental energy at the beginning of the day, compared with the end of it.

12. Commit to work-life balance.

Considering nearly everyone has a mini computer in hand every waking moment, working around the clock is easy to do. This is a recipe for burnout. No matter how busy you are, carve out time to unplug, relax and do the things you enjoy. Your brain will thank you. 

13. Make the most of meetings.

Meetings can absorb a huge amount of time, but they're often a necessary evil. Use your minutes in a meeting well by preparing talking points and questions that you'd like to explore ahead of time. Your focus will be contagious.   

14. Utilize collaboration software.

A wealth of software exists that makes it easy to work with people around the world as if they were sitting across your desk. Train yourself to move away from email onto real-time collaboration software. Things will get done faster, guaranteed.

15. Put communication rules in place.

If you want online collaboration to work you'll need standards in place so team members know what's expected of them in terms of availability. Whatever collaboration platform you're using should be enabled on every team member's screen, for example.

16. Value output over hours.

One way to increase productivity is to rethink your view of the workweek. It's not about how many hours you work, but rather the amount that you actually get done. You can easily measure productivity by comparing your actual versus intended accomplishments

17. Create long-term goals.

Post them somewhere prominent so every day you're reminded what you're working toward. This can be particularly helpful if you're easily distracted. Keeping your eye on the prize douses distractibility and procrastination.

18. Make a phone call.

Modern workers are accustomed to emailing for answers, or believe an electronic trail is some kind of insurance if something goes wrong. If it's urgent, don't wait around. Pick up the phone, even if it means calling someone higher up the food chain.

19. Write down creative sparks.

Inspiration often comes when you're least expecting it. Make sure you always have some method of capturing the thought, even if it means voice recording a memo on your smartphone.

20. Don't eat crap.

That sandwich shop around the corner may sound good, but after a heavy pulled pork sandwich, you might feel too full to get anything done. Or, maybe you're too busy to eat and your brain lacks the nutrients it needs. Eat healthy meals and snack throughout the day. Not only will doing so bolster your mental stamina, your metabolism will crank up, as well.

21. Take time for reflection.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to increase productivity at work is to reflect on each day or week. Focus on how things went. What do you feel you accomplished? Are there things you'd do differently next time? Answers to these questions can help you progress and move forward. Written reflection is even more effective, as it gives you a frame of reference for the future. Regardless, don't do yourself the disservice of going through each day on autopilot.

Published on: Oct 29, 2015