5 Tips To Get (Real) Work Done Everyday


Thanks to Tea Silvestre, The Word Chef, for inviting me to participate in The Word Carnival, a monthly event where several bloggers write on the same topic.  This month, the prompt is about productivity.

Raise your hand if your default day looks something like this:

  • Check email—both work and personal.   Good morning! This is the first of 40 times you’ll check today.  Frantically answer those emails you can quickly dispense with.
  • Check Twitter.  Retweet the best stuff. See what the 4 people who really interest you are doing.
  • Check Facebook. Make sure that nothing earth shattering has happened while you weren’t looking. Upload the pictures you took on your trip.
  • Check Google + to see if anyone found a link you haven’t found.  Comment or +1 something that someone posted.
  • Read some of the blog posts in your feed reader.
  • Check to see how much traffic you got to your blog.
  • (rinse and repeat)

The term “rat race” was coined before the internet existed but it aptly describes a day that looks like this.

There are things I do to make sure I don’t get caught in that wheel:      

1.  Have a must do list

While my to do list consists of some rat race items, my must do list is comprised of 2-3 things I would just as soon put off but take concentration and time without distractions.  Knowing that I can’t finish a day without either completing or seriously chipping away at my must do list, assures that the work that is easiest to put aside gets done—and it’s usually the most productive work.

2.     Never, never start the day at the computer

I realized that once I get sucked into email volleys and “checking” behaviors on social networks, I can spend hours avoiding everything else.  Most of that behavior is not productive. It is a reaction to the balls that are being thrown at you and the built in procrastination opportunities of the web.

3.       Spend the first few minutes of the day sitting quietly, doing nothing.

I try to meditate for at least 10 minutes when I wake up.  The half dreamy, just out of sleep time of the day before my mind starts yammering at me is perfect for setting the tone for a less-is-more approach to getting work done.  Ideas slide into my awareness, important things that I need to address present themselves.

3.       Plan around my natural rhythms

I am a morning person.  My mind is buzzing before noon.  I feel more creative, more able to plan and to write in the mornings.  If I use the web to procrastinate in the morning, I’m cooked. overwhelmed by later in the day to accomplish real, productive, creative work.  Knowing what time of day the different types of work can be done makes me more efficien

5.       Sprint and pause

I first heard this concept of pacing yourself when I visited the Facebook offices.  It turns out that the “sprint and pause” approach has been proven by neuroscientists to be the most effective way to work without burning out.  You focus and work intently for a period of time, then step away.  Take a break.  People usually lose steam after a period of 90 minutes or so.  Don’t force yourself to fight an uphill battle with your brain.

Remember that the great ideas do not tend to come when you are staring a a computer. They come in the quiet times, in the shower, when taking a walk or a run.  It’s like the white space in a design.  Without that quiet, empty space, it’s nothing more than noise.

What do you do to avoid the rat race and get real work done?




16 Responses to 5 Tips To Get (Real) Work Done Everyday
  1. Tea Silvestre
    October 9, 2020 | 8:44 pm

    LOL…were you spying on me? You described my morning routine almost exactly (the first one, not the one you advocate). Okay. I am resolved beginning tomorrow: starting the day on the couch. 10 minutes of staring off into space. Sans even the iPad….will report back.

  2. Ilana
    October 9, 2020 | 9:34 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Tea. Looking forward to hearing back from you. I find that if I can follow even 2 of the 5 tips on a given day, it’s better than the alternative.

  3. LaTersa Blakely
    October 26, 2020 | 11:54 am

    this was a good post and one that i can truly relate to. i have to have my to do list. and i try to meditate first thing in the morning, but as of lately with me getting up to get my son ready for school,my meditation usually starts once i drop him off

  4. Sharon Hurley Hall
    October 26, 2020 | 12:51 pm

    Totally agree with you about the rhythms, Ilana. I’m a morning person too, and if I don’t get my most creative work done then, it really throws me off.

    • Ilana
      October 26, 2020 | 2:05 pm

      Thanks for your comment Sharon. We gotta make the most of our natural inclinations.

  5. Nicole Fende
    October 26, 2020 | 1:06 pm

    I remember the first time someone made the suggestion to limit email and SM time. I had severe withdrawals symptoms - from something I didn’t even use 18 months ago!

    Had not heard of the sprint and pause before. Will give that and the meditation a go.

    • Ilana
      October 26, 2020 | 2:05 pm

      Nicole, it’s an addiction for sure. Unless addictions are good, it might be good to pull back and see what happens.

  6. Clare Price
    October 26, 2020 | 1:17 pm

    Not start the day at the computer? I will have a hard time with that one but its a great tip. Another great tip is sprint and pause. Give yourself permission to take a mental break.

    • Ilana
      October 26, 2020 | 2:04 pm

      Clare, thanks for your honest feedback. I know when I wake up and try not to hit the computer or iPhone first thing I feel a pull that tells me how addicted I am.

  7. evan austin
    October 26, 2020 | 1:55 pm

    i’m with Tea: that’s exactly my day all too often. Awesome tips, Ilana…i’m so ready to try them out!

  8. Beth Hayden
    October 26, 2020 | 2:46 pm

    Great post, Ilana - I am guilty of everything you listed at the beginning of your article. I really struggle with not being in reactionary mode all day, which is what happens when I’m checking my email every 2 minutes. My business coach asked me what my life would be like if I could break myself of that habit, and I was momentarily speechless. Then I said, “I would have all this TIME….I wouldn’t know what to do with myself!” She gave me a pointed look and then just had me sit there until I realized how much further along I could be in six months if I used all that open time to actually GET S*&T DONE! *forehead smack*

    • Ilana Rabinowitz
      October 28, 2020 | 5:46 am

      Hi Beth, we are all addicted. There should be a Surgeon General Warning on the screens. It feels like work, but a lot of it is really distraction, isn’t it?

  9. SandyMc
    October 28, 2020 | 12:52 am

    Great post Ilana. Loved the visual of the quiet white space in between the noise.

    Emails and much of what we do on the internet can be only noise if we aren’t filtering what is actually effective and useful to us and others.

    Switching off my email until 2pm made an enormous difference, but I soon started to slip back. The truth is emails, twitter, facebook, linkedin, they’re all just totally addictive media. So conversations like this are so important as they remind us quietly of what needs to be done to improve our productivity and give us so many great ways to do it.

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  12. Nick Armstrong
    November 30, 2020 | 6:39 pm

    I love the tips on this list.

    However, I dislike the fact that my “natural rhythms” for productivity are usually between 11pm and 3am.

    Ridiculous and not at all fun hours to keep, except that nobody is awake and it’s usually very quiet.

    The internet has given us some wonderful productivity tools, but it also has provided a horrendous path for distraction through over-saturation of information!

    Great post!

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