Everyone wants to be more productive. How incredible would it be to wake up with a to-do list that you can actually do?

Unfortunately, life happens and distractions get in the way of a day's fully checked off checklist. I'm guilty of starting out with good intentions and then falling prey to the dings of my email and the bright lights of my phone.

I took it upon myself to stop the madness and slowly started implementing these things one by one...and it actually worked. You don't have to apply this list all at once but if you can get to a place where you are doing most of these things most of the time, then you are well on your way to a more efficient day.

1. Wake up 15 minutes earlier.

No one wants to lose any sleep, but I found that waking up a little earlier than my day was supposed to start allowed me to spend extra time on my morning routine and prepare my mind. I could finally sit down and eat breakfast instead of inhaling it between red lights. I was able to take my time getting out of bed instead of rushing and stumbling to the bathroom. It was the extra time I needed to truly wake up.

2. Prepare a podcast or audiobook for your commute.

Tony Robbins calls it your NET time - No Extra Time time. These are the moments spent commuting, running errands, or cooking dinner where you can ingest new and important information. It's the time you could normally zone out but instead, you're replacing it with riveting ideas that could lead you to more ideas.

3. Find movement every 60 minutes.

Some studies recommend every 30 minutes, but if you are deep in your work, getting up for a walk when you're in peak creativity is just as counterproductive. I opt for a five-minute walk or stretch every 60 minutes in addition to using a standing desk. The quick break allows your brain to pause and rejuvenate. If you're in a slump and finding yourself checking your phone or hopping on social media too much, it's also a good indicator that you should take a movement break.

4. Don't check your email until it's actually time to work.

Repeat after me: stop checking your email right when you wake up. Just stop. Don't do it. The first thing you do, see, or hear when you wake up sets the tone for the rest of your day. Let your mornings be all you. You'll have time to email all you want later.

5. Create accountability.

Have a colleague or manager checking in on your project or status can help you focus and stay on task. When you know that someone else is involved with your work, you are less likely to fall behind.

6. Pick three major things that need to get done today and assign a time/deadline to them.

I love to-do lists. They are so much fun and sometimes I retroactively put things I've done on a new to-do list just so I can check things off. But, alas, I had to stop doing that. These days, I create that list but I rank the top three things that must be done ASAP, and they also have to be big projects. I can't list small and easy errands as my big three. From there, I assign a time when they need to be done. Deadlines are the biggest motivators.

7. Block off time where you are completely unavailable.

This is a perfect follow up to above. When you create deadlines, write them into a calendar. If you're in a work environment where people love to talk to you, block it off as a meeting. If you work remotely, hide your phone and ban your email and social media for that amount of time. Commit yourself to completely this task.

8. Stop multi-tasking.

I'll admit it, I'm still guilty of this one. But, studies (and prior experience) have proved that you become extremely less productive when you do multiple things at once. It's just the fact of the matter. When your brain can stop jumping from idea to idea, you become more focused, clear, and determined.

Published on: Apr 27, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.