15 Ways to Maximize Your Productivity and Earnings

Woman working and organizing her schedule and notes
GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on DollarSprout.

Although you might use an eight-hour workday to benchmark your productivity, research suggests workers are only productive for about three hours during that time frame.

Whether you’re working remotely or in an office, distractions pop up, and tasks that earn you money or a promotion take a back seat.

While some distractions are inevitable, they shouldn’t steal your focus from doing things that create value and help you earn money, says Grace Marshall, author of the award-winning book “How to Be Really Productive” and productivity expert at Think Productive.

According to Marshall, productivity is about managing your time, energy, and focus — so you can get work done, get money, and still have time to, well, get a life.

With that in mind, here are several ways to boost your productivity and earning potential.

1. Find your most productive hours.

A woman thinking about how to use the frequent flyer miles and bonus points from her airline rewards card
Karramba Production / Shutterstock.com

There’s usually a time of day when you’re ready to do your best work, but that time of day differs for everyone. “For me, my creativity comes alive late at night, so I reserve the evenings for working on big campaign ideas and new client proposals,” says Aimee Joseph, founder of marketing boutique Brand Love Solutions. “My advice would be to determine when you’re most creative and work with it.”

To find your golden hours, listen to your body to get a sense of when you feel focused and motivated to tackle big projects. Plan your day so you’re doing the highest-priority work during your most productive hours, while routine tasks can be done when you don’t need as much concentration.

2. Figure out which office lifestyle is best for you.

Nebojsa Tatomirov / Shutterstock.com

Some people work best independently, while others thrive in an office setting. “In my experience, introverts really tend to enjoy working from home because they are energized by alone time,” says Alexis Haselberger, a productivity, time management and leadership coach. “Extroverts tend to have a harder time working from home for the opposite reason; they are energized through time with others.”

Have you noticed that where you work impacts your output and focus? Consider finding a job or shaping your career path based on where you can work: remotely, in an office, or a combination of the two.

3. Track and limit time spent on each task.

Time and money
WHYFRAME / Shutterstock.com

After a few months in the same role, you probably know how long it takes to complete your normal, routine tasks. When you need to schedule a task, allot a reasonable amount of time and aim to get it done within that time frame.

If you need help figuring out where your time goes, tools like RescueTime can help. This app automatically tracks how you spend your time, lets you set daily goals, and provides regular reports. Based on your customizations, it also limits the time spent on any task and blocks temptations like social media, notifications, and news alerts.

4. Schedule your week.

Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Racheal Cook, business strategist and productivity expert, says she creates a weekly Google Calendar and first blocks out time for family, friends and fun. She then blocks out major work tasks during defined hours to help create boundaries between work and her personal life. If you don’t make time for both, “then work can quickly take up every available moment in your week,” Cook says.

Blocking out time also keeps you on track and helps you to be realistic about deadlines, Haselberger says. She also decides (in advance) what time she’ll stop working each day.

5. Give yourself periodic breaks.

Woman relaxing holding a coffee
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

Working at 100% capacity at all hours just isn’t sustainable. “If you don’t take regular breaks, you risk burnout,” Haselberger says.

Some productivity methods suggest working in short bursts followed by a short break. For example, productivity-software company DeskTime says the most productive people work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes. Remove yourself completely from work during this time. “A quick walk or reading an article can really reset your brain to get back into productive mode,” Haselberger says.

6. Make time for personal and career development.

Woman studying outdoors
Bird in Paradise Stock / Shutterstock.com

“When we’re busy delivering the work that gets us the next paycheck, we react to what’s very immediate,” Marshall says. But it’s important to also think about your long-term personal and career goals and what steps it will take to get there.

Career development could include attending a training course for the next step in your career, watching a self-development seminar, or reading a book. Investing time in yourself might mean skipping billable client work now, but it boosts your earning potential over time. And focusing on personal goals can help you round out your work-life balance.

7. Avoid meetings if possible.

Angry businessman lashing out in a meeting.
fizkes / Shutterstock.com

You’ve probably heard this workplace one-liner: “This meeting could have been an email.” While meetings can be an efficient way to collectively brainstorm ideas and create solutions, more than $37 billion per year is spent on unproductive meetings, according to one estimate. But if you must have one, Haselberger offers these tips:

  • Ensure every meeting has an owner. This person schedules the meeting, sets the agenda, and facilitates the discussion.
  • Only include necessary attendees. Information can be disseminated to others on a need-to-know basis via other means.
  • Always have an agenda. The owner sends the agenda to all attendees. It should state the objective, items for discussion, and any relevant materials to prepare attendees.
  • Define the goal for the meeting. If you don’t know what you hope to accomplish, don’t schedule a meeting.
  • Decision vs. discussion. Decide whether the purpose of the meeting is for decision-making or brainstorming and discussion.

Employing a strategy will make meetings more organized and productive, and a better use of time.

8. Outsource or delegate work if you can.

Young businesswoman working on laptop at cafe
Friends Stock / Shutterstock.com

Whether you’re running a business or part of a large project with co-workers, everyone has a strength and a role. Delegating or outsourcing work means “letting others do what they can do, so you can do what only you can do,” Marshall says.

For best practices, Marshall suggests communicating the results you want and defining ground rules. Although someone else will do the task differently than you would, “sometimes they’ll do it better or in a different way that still achieves the results you want,” Marshall says.

9. Avoid time wasters.

Business woman working from home in a dress
Alissa Kumarova / Shutterstock.com

Distractions can torpedo your workday. These come in the form of household chores, co-workers or kids, and emails and notifications. “Most people check email on average 37 times a day,” Haselberger says. “Every time we are interrupted or distracted, it takes, on average, 23 minutes to refocus.”

Don’t let these derail your schedule. Instead of pausing work to tackle small tasks, you can:

  • Block off time to check and answer your emails.
  • Turn off notifications on all devices during work hours.
  • Set communication boundaries with co-workers or household members.
  • Dedicate time for chores.

Incorporating these necessary tasks into your schedule ensures that they are done while still allowing you sufficient, undistracted time to complete your larger tasks.

10. Create your own work processes.

Young happy man using laptop to work as an editor or developer
Kite_rin / Shutterstock.com

If you’ve figured out a good way of getting things done, “let’s not reinvent the wheel,” Marshall says. Creating resources like processes, checklists, and pricing structures allows you to do the thinking and the work just once. Having the documentation will also help if you plan to grow your business in the future, Marshall says.

11. Automate tasks when possible.

A happy young man smiles and gestures thumbs-up while doing his taxes on a laptop computer
Rostislav_Sedlacek / Shutterstock.com

In any business, repeat tasks need to get done but take up precious time. Some of these can be automated, which means using technology to speed things up. For example, instead of emailing back and forth about setting up a chat, you can use an app like TimeTrade.

Collaborating with project management tools, using accounting software, and scheduling social media posts are some other ways to automate tasks.

12. Exercise regularly.

Woman stretching outside.
Juanan Barros Moreno / Shutterstock.com

Exercise does so much more than lower your blood pressure and help you fit into your jeans. In one study, employees who visited the gym said they were more productive, managed their time more effectively, and had smoother interactions with their colleagues. Exercise can also:

  • Boost your concentration, memory, and creativity.
  • Help you learn faster.
  • Lower your stress levels.

Joseph says that exercising gives her a surge of creativity. When that happens, she captures ideas on her smartphone to check later. “Writing down everything is key for me, as my brain gets overloaded with ideas. Reviewing my ‘ideas dump’ later on is a great way to weed out the weak (ideas) and identify the ones with real opportunity.”

You can use voice memos or another app to record your ideas if it’s easier than stopping what you’re doing to write them down.

13. Take time to rest and recharge.

happy employee
dotshock / Shutterstock.com

Plenty of folks work nights and weekends, take few vacations, and retire late in life. “People often think about free time as a luxury or an afterthought,” Marshall says. “But rest is fuel for productivity.” It can also improve your immune system, increase creativity, and reduce stress.

Rest will look different for everyone, but here are a few ways to make it happen:

  • Block off at least one day a week where no work is allowed.
  • Practice self-care, which generally means sleeping enough, eating well, and exercising.
  • Take a “mental health day” if you need it.
  • Make time to visit friends and family. But don’t be afraid to say “no” to social visits if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Spending time away from work and projects is important not only because it gives you a chance to rest and recharge, but also because you might find yourself inspired or with a fresh perspective when you get back to your desk.

14. Get enough sleep.

Elnur / Shutterstock.com

“If we’re not feeling refreshed, it can hamper our ability to do our best work,” Marshall says. “Research suggests that if you’re sleep-deprived, the long-term cognitive impairment is equivalent to being drunk.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. What’s considered “enough” varies by age and person. But generally, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, the CDC says. Here are some ways to help that happen:

  • Save caffeine for the morning, and cut it from your afternoon and evening.
  • Get into a consistent sleep schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, including on weekends.
  • Don’t use smartphones and other devices right before bedtime. They emit light that can mess with your circadian rhythm and ability to fall asleep.
  • Avoid exercising and eating close to bedtime.

Establishing a bedtime routine and better sleep habits ensures that you’re well-rested and able to perform at your best the following day.

15. Make good food choices.

woman cooking at home
KucherAV / Shutterstock.com

It may come as no surprise that food is directly tied to your energy level. You’ve probably grabbed a 2 p.m. snack or coffee to boost your brainpower for the afternoon. But while any food generally fuels your body, some types of food are better at promoting productivity. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Have healthy food choices available. In particular, fruits and vegetables have been shown to promote curiosity, motivation, and engagement. Nuts are also a healthy option.
  • Don’t skip breakfast. A meal full of protein and complex carbohydrates gives your body the energy it needs to get through the day.
  • Graze. Hunger can lead to lower levels of productivity, so have a steady stream of healthy snacks on hand to eat throughout the day.

If finding ways to incorporate healthy food choices into your day is difficult, consider setting one day aside for meal prepping. It’ll not only save time and decision fatigue, but it can save you money as well.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs
5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs

These free apps and websites can help you get cash back on groceries, shop more efficiently or squeeze the most from the ingredients you have on hand.

9 Genius Storage Solutions for Your Home
9 Genius Storage Solutions for Your Home

These creative products on Amazon will hide unsightly clutter while saving space.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck in 8 Steps
How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck in 8 Steps

Does it feel like your paycheck is gone the moment you get it? You can break that vicious cycle.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Whether you resell it for a big profit or add it to your own wardrobe, this type of clothing is a hidden steal.

10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

This Simple Mistake Might Weaken Your COVID-19 Vaccination
This Simple Mistake Might Weaken Your COVID-19 Vaccination

Avoid doing this before you get vaccinated.

10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years
10 Cars You Are Most Likely to Keep for 15 Years

The cars that owners hold onto the longest have one thing in common, a new study shows.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car
9 Things You Should Never Leave in a Car

Thinking of leaving these possessions in a car? Prepare for unexpected consequences.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar
9 Mistakes People Make When Cleaning With Vinegar

Cleaning with vinegar can save you a lot of money, but using it like this can cost you.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently
10 Things Successful Retirees Do Differently

These habits and characteristics can help put you on the track to success.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

29 Purchases That Can Save You Money Every Day
29 Purchases That Can Save You Money Every Day

Sometimes, you’ve got to spend to save.

7 Things I Never Buy at Costco
7 Things I Never Buy at Costco

A bulk buy isn’t always the best buy.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.