I tried a 30-day productivity challenge — Here’s what I learned
Last updated on: May 24, 2023
At Clockify, we’re all about productivity.
We research time management relentlessly and try to bring you the best advice and the newest information to help you improve your work efficiency.
In that light, I decided to undergo a gargantuan task and try a 30-day challenge to see what famous productivity advice works and what doesn’t.
This blog post is a product of months’ worth of research and testing.
Here, you can read about my experience trying the 30-day productivity challenge, my observations, tips and tricks, and conclusions.
Below, you can find a list of the challenges I followed.
I encourage you to try the ones that pique your interest yourself.
Table of Contents
My 30-day productivity challenge calendar
Before I start going into detail about how every challenge went for me, here’s a sneak peek at my 30-day productivity challenge calendar.
As you can see, I tried every productivity advice in the book (and beyond) and got some interesting results.
Here’s what I learned.
Day #1: Wake up an hour earlier than usual
Starting your day early is generally linked with success. I wanted to see if waking up an hour earlier than usual would have an impact on my productivity.
How I managed to wake up an hour earlier
I usually wake up at about 8 a.m. and start my workday at 9 a.m. after I have breakfast and coffee.
So, today, I woke up at 7 a.m., did all my usual rituals, and started my workday at 8 a.m. But, before that, I made sure I got enough sleep.
How waking up earlier affected my productivity
Starting my day earlier proved to have a huge impact on my productivity. I generally tend to work better in the morning and get the most work done in the early hours of the day. But, it turns out I’m even more productive when I start my day earlier.
I’ve noticed there are much fewer distractions earlier in the day, and my personal and work apps tend to ping much more rarely. That helped me focus.
Not only did I get more work done and faster than usual, but my workday seemed to flow faster.
Would I recommend waking up earlier to others?
Absolutely! Especially if you’re a morning person.
Day #2: Create a to-do list the night before
My coworker has found many benefits to to-do lists, and I wanted to see if I’d feel the same about them.
How I created a to-do list the night before
Trying this method was not difficult for me because I tend to make to-do lists daily. However, I usually make them on the go — as new tasks come up, I DM them to myself in our team chat app Pumble.
This time, I tried to be more systematic. I made a to-do list for the day the night before, and I used our project management tool Plaky. I also categorized the tasks based on urgency.
How creating a to-do list the night before affected my productivity
A to-do list allowed me to free my mental space by not having to remember every small task for the day. Instead of going back and forth between tasks — or remembering a task late and trying to get it done on time — I could focus on following the list and concentrate on the activity at hand.
However, I still had to add some tasks that came up during the day, but in Plaky, you can do it in seconds.
Would I recommend creating a to-do list the night before?
Yes, especially for people with a more systematic approach to work. Personally, I prefer a more casual approach to to-do lists, like making one on the go during the workday.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip
You can get a variety of to-do list templates here:
Day #3: Put your phone away while working
Smartphones are designed to be addictive and monopolize our most scarce resource — attention. That’s why I tried not having it in my vicinity for an entire workday.
How I managed not to check my phone while working
I did not merely put my phone on silent or disable push notifications — rather, I removed it from the room completely.
My dad tends to do the same when he doesn’t want to be bothered by his phone for a while, but he has a specific (symbolically appropriate) place for it — the bathroom.
So yeah, I put my phone in the bathroom while working and checked it only during my breaks.
How putting my phone away affected my productivity
At the start of the day, it was great! I managed to get a lot of work done in the first couple of hours. However, as time went by and my focus dwindled, I got a bit fidgety and really wanted to scroll through some social media. So, I scrolled through the one platform I visit via desktop — LinkedIn.
But, all in all, I was much more productive than usual, and my focus was much sharper. What’s more, I felt better overall and more fulfilled.
Would I recommend putting your phone away while working?
10/10 would recommend, especially on days when your focus is scattered.
Day #4: Time block activities
Time blocking means defining specific time frames for different activities and marking them in your calendar. I wanted to see if it would help me be more efficient at work.
How I tried time blocking
I brainstormed my tasks for the day and tried to categorize them in order of importance and priority.
I identified one task as a priority since the deadline was nearing, and time blocked the first few hours of the day for that task in my Clockify calendar. Then, I defined time blocks for the rest of the day.
How time blocking affected my productivity
Since my time blocks included tasks that took an hour and a half or longer — and my time estimates were based on my previous experience with such tasks — I didn’t have a hard time finishing them within the time constraints.
However, my problem with time blocking was that I could not give my undivided attention to each time block throughout the day because other small tasks would emerge. Sometimes, it was a coworker seeking quick advice. Other times, it was the illustrator sending me fresh visuals to add to a published blog post.
Would I recommend time blocking?
In my experience, time blocking can work for people whose workday organization depends solely on them.
However, if the nature of your job means you can always get unexpected tasks or you frequently have to deal with a sudden change of plans, time blocking can add stress to your already busy day.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip
I’ve only scratched the surface of time blocking. Want to know more? Check out this guide:
Day #5: Do 30 minutes of exercise in the middle of your workday
How I tried exercising in the middle of my workday
In general, I’m fairly active and exercise regularly.
But, this was an ideal day to try exercising during the workday and gauge any effects of it because I’d had a longer break from exercise due to injury. This way, I could better feel if there were any immediate benefits of exercise for productivity.
I scheduled a mid-workday 30-minute break to do some light aerobic exercises followed by some stretching.
How mid-workday exercising affected my productivity
Just as I expected, I felt immensely refreshed and much readier to get back to work with renewed energy. The exercise proved to provide great physical relief from sitting and a much-needed mental break from work.
I suspect it partly felt so good because I hadn’t exercised at all for a couple of weeks before that.
Sometimes, you can’t switch off your work brain during a break, so the break doesn’t feel like a break at all. When you exercise, you focus on what you’re doing at the moment and are able to completely shut off the noise.
Would I recommend exercising in the middle of your workday?
Would recommend it to everyone!
Day #6: Drink 8 glasses of water
Research has shown that even mild dehydration can lead to cognitive impairment. I wanted to see if drinking a commonly recommended daily dose of water would have an effect on my productivity.
How I distributed 8 glasses of water during the day
My rationale was as follows: If I was supposed to drink 8 glasses of water a day, and I’m usually awake for about 16 hours, I should have, approximately — a glass every two hours.
My workday is 8-hours long, meaning I should have about 4 glasses of water during my workday.
How drinking 8 glasses of water a day affected my productivity
I tend to drink a lot of water already, and this challenge made little difference except for making me more aware of my water intake during the day. Since I already drink 4 glasses and more during the workday, I couldn’t talk of any differences in productivity.
Perhaps, I should have reversed the challenge — drink much less water to see whether it would affect my productivity levels negatively.
I know from experience that I get nervous and cranky (and headachy) when I’m thirsty, so I can only guess that it would have affected my performance.
Would I recommend drinking 8 glasses of water?
I can’t really say much based on my challenge today, but based on my previous experience and research — drink your water, people!
Also, experts recommend we drink whenever we’re thirsty rather than stick to a predetermined amount of water.
Day #7: Identify the biggest time wasters and avoid them all day
Being distraction-free during work hours is a productivity dream come true. So, I tried keeping a to-don’t list for a day — i.e. a list of time wasters and distractions to avoid during the workday.
How I identified my biggest time wasters
Based on my general work experience — as well as closer monitoring of my productivity and what affects it in the course of this challenge — I made a list of all the distractions I wanted to avoid during the workday.
The list included mostly checking my phone and social media, but also resisting the urge to snack when I’m bored or play just one song (it often turns into a playlist).
How identifying and avoiding time wasters affected my productivity
Just as expected, I managed to get a lot more done than usual, especially in the first part of the day.
Unsurprisingly, the only distraction I didn’t manage to avoid completely was checking my phone. The challenge put my negative habits into perspective and made me think more about why I resort to them.
It also confirmed what I already knew — I’m a smartphone addict, and it affects my productivity.
Would I recommend identifying your time wasters and avoiding them?
You have nothing to lose if you decide to try this method. It can help you understand when you’re most likely to get the urge to distract yourself as well as why you do it and how it affects your focus.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip
My coworker tried keeping a to-don’t list for an entire week. Read about her experience if you want to dive deeper into this challenge:
Day #8: Dress for office work (business casual) while working remotely
Remote workers usually dress much more casually than office employees — many even work in their PJs.
But, research suggests working in pajamas might be associated with poorer mental health. So, I tried dressing up for work for a day.
How I dressed up for office work
As a long-standing remote worker, I’m aware of the trap — so I never work in PJs per se. However, I do wear my comfy, often shabby and worn-out “home” clothes that I would never wear to an office job, even if it had the most casual dress code ever.
So, I wanted to test if wearing “work-appropriate” clothes would put me in a “business mood” and make me more productive. I wore something even more businessy than I would normally wear to work to emphasize the point — think some slacks, a T-shirt, and a blazer.
How dressing up affected my productivity
Well, I just felt silly.
My brother laughed his face off when he woke up and saw me sitting at the laptop in our living room in a blazer. It sort of felt like I was in “work drag”. What’s more, it made me even more aware of how silly office dress codes are in the twenty-first century and how lucky I am to be working from home.
It did nothing for my productivity.
Would I recommend dressing up while working remotely?
I don’t know — it might work if putting on the right kind of clothes tends to help you feel put-together. I know a lot of people for whom this really does the trick.
However, this is not the case for me, so work clothes did not have any effect on my workday — other than a humorous one.
Day #9: Don’t check social media during work
I already tried avoiding distractions, but I thought social media deserved a separate challenge as possibly the biggest time-waster among both remote and office employees.
How I made sure not to check social media during work
I tend to check social media a lot during the workday. I do it often but in brief time intervals, which is enough to break my focus. Actually, I mostly do it when I can’t focus, but the more spaced out I am, the harder it is to resist “the scroll.”
So, to resist the temptation of using social media, I put my phone (where I check Instagram, WhatsApp, Discord, and Pinterest) away, and blocked LinkedIn and YouTube using a website blocker.
How not checking social media during work affected my productivity
Having already tried similar strategies, I pretty much knew how the day would go, and it ended up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I was super productive during the first few hours. But, as my concentration waned, I became fidgety and found other ways to procrastinate — such as writing in my diary (haven’t done that in months).
Would I recommend not checking social media during work?
Removing social media during the workday is definitely worth it. I hope it becomes easier to avoid it with time and practice.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip
Here are some more tips & tricks for staying focused at work:
Day #10: Change your work environment
A new environment might break up a stale routine and result in better productivity. Or, so people say. Here’s how it went for me.
How I changed my work environment
I usually work from my apartment. When I don’t, I work from my parents’ house in my home town. Apart from that, I rarely change my work environment (which is lazy, considering I can work from anywhere).
So, on day 10, I worked from various cafes in another city with two coworkers. The atmosphere was laid back, and it was nice to have some company during work.
How changing my working environment affected my productivity
During the breaks from chit-chat, we were actually able to fully concentrate on work. But, the entire workday was more about socializing than working, to be honest.
Still, the change of environment itself was quite pleasant. It was refreshing to work from somewhere else, and I’ll try to do it more often.
Would I recommend changing your work environment from time to time?
Absolutely, it’s refreshing and a great tactic to employ when you start hating your WFH setup due to spending so much time there. But, you may want to choose a quieter environment, such as a coworking space.
Day #11: DM yourself motivational quotes or GIFs
Allegedly, positive self-talk can make you more productive. I decided to have a little fun with this idea by DMing myself motivational messages.
How I DMed myself motivational GIFs and quotes
I must admit I DM myself motivational GIFs in Pumble all the time.
I have no idea why, but my go-to’s are RuPaul GIFs, usually containing some of his catchphrases, such as “You better work!”, “Condragulations”, “You’re a winner, baby”, and so on. Absolutely no idea why, but I find these extremely motivational, especially in a deadline situation.
Not a big fan of quotes, but I tried that too today.
Usually, I just DM myself a RuPaul GIF at the start of the day, and that’s it. It’s there to root for me throughout the day. But, for the sake of the challenge, I went a bit extra today and sent myself GIFs and messages approximately every hour.
How motivational GIFs and quotes affected my productivity
It was fun, that’s for sure, and a bit silly — and, it took a loooot of time and focus away from work to find appropriate quotes and GIFs.
Definitely did not help with productivity.
Would I recommend motivational GIFs and quotes?
An occasional motivational GIF or quote (like my RuPaul GIFs) is great. But, let’s be real — if you spend too much time going through cool quotes, it’s going to ruin your focus and productivity.
Day #12: Use your DM as a notepad for jotting down ideas
Writing down ideas as soon as they occur can help you save them for later instead of resorting to multitasking to execute them while in the middle of another task.
How I used my DM as a notepad for ideas
I generally use my personal Pumble DM as a notepad. But, this time, I decided to intensify the use, so my DM was fuller than usual at the end of the day.
For example, as I was proofreading a coworker’s blog post, I got an idea on how to solve a problematic part in my own post, so I decided to write it down so as not to forget it.
I format each idea as an individual bullet list item so that I can then react to it with different emojis to help me better differentiate between them. I can also cross them over when they’re used.
How using my DM as a notepad affected my productivity
Instead of going back and forth between tasks, I could focus on the task at hand without worrying that I’ll forget what I planned to do.
It had a positive impact on my productivity, and most importantly — on my ability to focus.
Would I recommend using your DM as a notepad?
Overall, this is a great method for staying focused and not letting thoughts about other tasks distract you.
I’d just recommend using whatever tool you prefer for jotting down ideas — for some, it’s a paper planner, and for others, it can be a notepad app. I just prefer to use my Pumble DM.
Day #13: Organize your workspace
An organized workspace improves productivity and time management. This can be true of both a physical and a digital workspace, so I decided to try better organizing both.
How I organized my workspace
I decided to organize both my physical workstation and my digital workspace, i.e. my laptop.
When it comes to my physical workstation, I usually work either at the desk or from the comfort of my couch, but for this challenge, I went with the desk. I usually don’t have much on the desk besides my laptop — maybe a notebook and a pen, water or coffee, and sometimes, a snack.
So, there wasn’t much organizing to do. I just made sure to put all these items neatly where they’re at hand and not in the way.
When it comes to my laptop, there was a bit more work to do. For example, my Downloads folder was getting quite full, which made it more difficult to find any files I needed. So, I organized my folders and deleted a bunch of items I no longer needed.
How organizing my workspace affected my productivity
Starting my day by organizing my workspace not only helped me declutter and have easier access to the things I might need — it also set the mood for the day and helped me get “in the zone” for work.
Would I recommend organizing your workspace?
I would recommend this method to anyone. You don’t have to feng shui the place — just make sure you can find everything you need.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip
If you want to try this challenge, take a look at this guide on how to organize your digital workspace:
Day #14: Use the Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro technique is supposed to improve focus, cut distractions, and help you get things done. I tried it for a day.
It involves working in 25-minute intervals, followed by 5-minute breaks. After every 4 Pomodoros, you get a longer, 30-minute break.
How I tried the Pomodoro technique
I used Clockify’s Pomodoro timer via the browser extension.
After each Pomodoro session, the timer would notify me it was time for a break. I’d stop working and resume after the break was up.
How using the Pomodoro technique affected my productivity
At first, knowing that I have 25 minutes to work really helped me focus — but it also made me kind of anxious and overly focused on time tracking. I was burdened with how much time had passed and how much there was left. Such awareness of time also made it impossible to enjoy my first two 5-minute breaks.
Sometimes, I would only manage to focus on the task 20 minutes into the interval, which meant the break came just as I was getting in the zone.
But after a while, I started to get used to it. The longer break after four 25-minute intervals felt like the most well-deserved break ever!
Would I recommend using the Pomodoro technique?
It’s a bit too rigid for my taste, but it definitely helped me get things done (even though it took some getting used to).
However, I don’t think I would be able to work like that all the time. I’d recommend it as a way of combating procrastination, especially when a deadline is nearing.
Day #15: Finish tasks you’ve been putting off
The tasks that we procrastinate working on can weigh on us more heavily than is realistic. Once we finish them, we usually feel a great sense of accomplishment and relief that can push us to be more productive.
How I finished the tasks I’ve been putting off
It’s much easier to make yourself finish a task if there’s a due date attached to it. At least that’s what I figured out when I realized the tasks I’d procrastinated doing for weeks didn’t have a strict deadline.
So, on day 15, I did the following tasks first thing in the morning:
- Wrote a new, longer version of my website bio, and
- Wrote a description of a tax calculator that a coworker designed to accompany one of my articles on taxes.
How finishing the tasks I’ve been putting off affected my productivity
All together, the dreaded tasks didn’t take me longer than 45 minutes to complete. I realized I’d been fussing over nothing and breathed a great sigh of relief when they were done.
Starting my day by tying loose ends really gave me an energy boost and set the tone for the rest of my work hours.
Would I recommend finishing tasks you’ve been putting off?
Absolutely — the sooner the better! It will free your mind to focus on new assignments.
Day #16: Listen to productivity-inducing music
There’s research that suggests music can improve our productivity — especially the instrumental kind since lyrics can interfere with our thoughts.
I often listen to music while I work, but I wanted to try something special for this challenge.
How I chose my productivity-inducing music
There’s a specific genre of music designed to help you focus, and many people swear by it — video game soundtracks.
I’m not a gamer, but I wanted to test this productivity hack, so I asked a coworker for a recommendation. His advice was the Spec Ops: The Line soundtrack, and it came with a fun fact — the game was inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. That was enough to have me sold.
How productivity-inducing music affected my productivity
I have to admit I was shocked — a song into the playlist, I was furiously typing my article while head-bobbing to this banger! It really helped put me in the mood for work.
After a couple of hours, the effect faded a bit, but the music got me through the most important and demanding work for the day.
Would I recommend listening to productivity-inducing music?
10/10 would recommend, especially when you need to get something done fast. I’ll be calling my gamer friends for more recommendations for sure.
Day #17: Work from the office
There’s been a lot of debate on office vs. remote work, and proponents of both are vocal about their preferences. I mostly work remotely, so I decided to go to the company office for a change.
How I tried working from the office
We’re a remote-first company, which means we do have office spaces, but we’re encouraged to choose where we want to work from.
I rarely go to the office — in fact, I only ever go for team gatherings, so I decided to try having a regular workday from there.
How working from the office affected my productivity
I have to admit — it did not go well. I guess when you’re used to complete silence and isolation of your WHF cocoon, the office feels like a place of a thousand distractions — coworkers softly chatting, office equipment whirring, kitchen utensils clinking, etc.
So, my productivity took a serious blow that day, but at least I got to socialize with my colleagues and enjoy their company.
Would I recommend working from the office?
I’d say this one depends on your preferences and what you’re used to. If you’re mostly a remote worker like me, office space might feel a bit too stimulating to be able to focus on work.
Day #18: Use the 4-7-8 breathing technique to regain focus
The 4-7-8 technique is a pattern of breathing based on yogic breathing techniques designed to induce a state of relaxation.
It’s mostly recommended for better sleep, but allegedly, it can also help you regain focus when you lose it.
How I tried the 4-7-8 breathing technique
For this challenge, I decided to try this breathing technique whenever I would get distracted and struggle to get back on track.
Here’s how the technique works:
- Step #1: Exhale completely through the mouth, making a soft restriction at the back of your throat.
- Step #2: Inhale through the nose counting to 4.
- Step #3: Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- Step #4: Exhale through the mouth counting to 8 (again, making the restriction in your throat).
You repeat this breathing pattern for several full breaths and see if your focus has improved.
How the 4-7-8 breathing technique affected my productivity
The breathing pattern did help me stop my mind from wandering as the mind had to focus on the breath work.
Consequently, it helped me regain my focus several times — but, it didn’t always work.
Would I recommend the 4-7-8 breathing technique?
I’d encourage you to give it a try — especially when you’re feeling agitated and need to calm down and get back to work.
Day #19: Time track every moment at work
But, this time, I wanted to go a bit extra and time track every single activity (or inactivity) during the workday and see what happens.
How I time tracked every moment at work
I wanted to capture every moment of my workday to better understand where my time goes at work.
To make it easy to start the timer as soon as a new activity (or distraction) would begin, I used Clockify’s Chrome time tracking extension.
How time tracking every moment at work affected my productivity
I tried my best, but it was just impossible to capture every (in)activity as it occurred. It was easy to start or stop the timer when I would start or stop a work activity. But, it wasn’t so easy to capture all the distractions.
For example, if I interrupted writing a blog post outline to stop and think about what I would have for lunch, I’d have to create a new time entry. By that moment, I’d feel silly about the whole situation.
So, halfway through the day, I gave up on the experiment and went back to only tracking work-related activities and regular breaks.
Would I recommend time tracking every moment at work?
I wouldn’t. Time tracking all your work activities and longer breaks is great and can give you great insight into where most of your time goes.
However, trying to capture every moment of spacing out is practically impossible.
Day #20: Start a daunting task using the 10-minute rule
The 10-minute rule works in the following way — when you’re dreading starting a task, you should set a timer for 10 minutes, plunge into the task, and make a commitment to work until the timer’s up.
How I tried using the 10-minute rule
For this challenge, I also used Clockify’s Pomodoro timer, but I edited the length of the Pomodoro unit to 10 minutes. I’d start the timer and try to start working on a task immediately.
If the timer was up, and I was still focused on the task, I’d keep working. If I was slacking, I’d stop with the timer, take a break, and try again later.
How the 10-minute rule affected my productivity
Honestly, it went great! Making a commitment to focus on the task at hand for just 10 minutes at a time helped me actually commit to the task. Most of the time, I continued working long past the 10-minute mark.
It made me much more efficient.
Would I recommend the 10-minute rule?
Absolutely! Especially if you have a hard time starting a task.
Day #21: Block some time for deep work in the DND mode
Entering the zone of deep work is perhaps the most difficult state of focus to achieve. It involves a deep, distraction-free concentration that allows you to achieve a lot in a short time.
I tried to enter it by getting rid of all the distractions, even my work chat app, for some time.
How I blocked time for deep work in the DND mode
I blocked 2 hours of my schedule for writing a resource page I was working on. During that time, I activated the Do Not Disturb mode in my team chat app Pumble, so that not even work messages could reach me during that period.
Taught by past experience in the course of this challenge, I set the mood by locking my phone in the bathroom, website-blocking social media channels, and putting on some game music.
How blocking time for deep work in the DND mode affected my productivity
The 2 hours flew by, and I managed to write a lot more than I usually would in that time frame. It really helped that my chat app wasn’t pinging and drawing my attention away from the task.
What’s more, the other techniques I learned in the course of this challenge (website blocking, game music, etc.) really helped me get in the mood for deep work.
It almost felt like going into battle and winning.
Would I recommend blocking time for deep work in the DND mode?
I’d recommend it to anyone who can afford not to be available to coworkers all the time.
Day #22: Find an accountability partner for the day
An accountability partner is a coworker who’s willing to motivate you to do the tasks you’ve set out to do. Ideally, they should hold you accountable, give you hell if you fail to do your tasks, and push you to finish them as planned.
How I found an accountability partner for the day
For my “partner in crime” for the day, I chose a coworker I tend to chat with the most at work, and luckily, he agreed to it.
I shared with him my schedule for the day and asked him to check up on me from time to time to see how my tasks were coming along. In turn, I asked him to share his to-list with me so that I could cheer him on as well.
How having an accountability partner for the day affected my productivity
I know my coworker is not my superior, but nevertheless, having someone to report to really pushed me to follow my schedule as planned.
It was nice to have someone to share in my work-related worries, setbacks, and little victories, and it made the work more enjoyable.
Would I recommend having an accountability partner?
I heartily recommend it, especially to remote employees whose daily work can feel a bit isolating at times.
💡 Clockify Pro Tip
Read more about the importance of team connectivity, especially in a remote setting, and how to foster it:
Day #23: Take a power nap during a break
Midday napping is proven to improve cognitive performance. I’m not much of a napper, so I decided to give a power nap a try during my work break.
How I took a power nap at work
I don’t normally sleep during the day, no matter how tired I am, except when I’m sick. So, for this challenge, I decided to take a longer break — a full hour — because I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep that fast.
I scheduled this break right in the middle of my workday, i.e. after 4 hours of work.
How taking a power nap affected my productivity
I must admit I wasn’t able to fully fall asleep during the break. However, I did sort of doze off and enter that state in-between sleep and wakefulness.
And, I was surprised to learn just how refreshed I felt afterward. My energy was almost fully renewed, and I was able to focus just as well as at the beginning of the workday — if not better.
I will definitely try to train myself to nap and use this technique on workdays when my attention is shattered.
Would I recommend taking a power nap during a break at work?
Yes! This technique can be incredibly helpful if you haven’t had much sleep the previous night or you just feel deflated and tired for whatever reason. It has the potential to completely turn your workday around.
Day #24: Have a no-meetings workday
Nowadays, no one seems to be a fan of meetings. There has been an onslaught of articles claiming that meetings (especially unproductive ones) can disrupt employees’ productivity.
So, I had a no-meetings day to see how it would go.
How I arranged a no-meetings workday
It was a bit challenging to try and reschedule the meetings I had for that day. Admittedly, I hadn’t thought in advance and paid attention to my productivity challenge schedule, so I had arranged some consultations with colleagues that I had to postpone.
But, I managed to cancel all the meetings at the beginning of the workday and have a meetings-free day.
How a no-meetings workday affected my productivity
It was nice not having to think about any upcoming meetings and interrupting my work to prepare for them and attend them.
I’d noticed before that meetings can seriously disrupt my flow and make it much harder to get back to work once they are done.
But, at least, in my company, we really strive not to have unproductive meetings, so even when they disrupt my work for a while, they’re usually worth it.
Would I recommend having a no-meetings workday?
Absolutely! I’d recommend having at least a couple of days a week where you can focus solely on your work — if you can afford it, of course.
Day #25: Try a famous person’s morning routine
For this challenge, I wanted to try a morning routine of someone highly productive and see how it would work out for me.
Whose morning routine I decided to try
Many famous people boast elaborate morning routines that seem to make them more productive.
I wanted to try something quite extreme and different from what I usually do — which is not much — and went with the former CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey.
So, this is what I did:
- Woke up at 5 a.m.
- Did a short meditation and went for a run.
- Took an ice-cold bath (ouch).
- Took a short walk around the block.
- Started working at 9 a.m.
How Jack Dorsey’s morning routine affected my productivity
I’m not used to waking up at the crack of dawn, and I’m definitely not used to exercising that early in the morning — and yes, I’m not much of a jogger either.
So, this morning routine was quite a challenge for me. It did give me a boost at the start of the workday, but I also got quite tired very early on in the day.
So, I will not be trying Dorsey’s routine again any time soon.
Guess I’m not cut out to be a badass CEO.
Would I recommend Jack Dorsey’s morning routine?
If you’re no stranger to waking up early and you’re feeling adventurous — sure, go for it!
💡 Clockify Pro Tip
If Dorsey’s morning flow feels a bit too extreme, maybe you’d be interested in trying another famous person’s routine. You can find many interesting ones here:
Day #26: Timebox activities you tend to procrastinate
Timeboxing is similar to time blocking, but the two methods have opposing goals.
Time blocking is supposed to give you enough time for an important task. On the other hand, timeboxing is meant to limit the time you spend on activities you tend to procrastinate.
How I timeboxed an activity I tend to procrastinate
I decided to timebox one activity that I tend to drag out — article research. I had started working on a new blog post the previous day, so I wanted to speed up the rest of the initial research process and start writing as soon as possible.
I timeboxed the activity in my Clockify calendar.
How timeboxing an activity I tend to procrastinate affected my productivity
Setting a specific time frame for blog post research really helped me take the task seriously and not get too carried away.
Sometimes, I tend to fall down the rabbit hole during research and end up going deeper than I need to or reading articles connected but irrelevant to the topic.
So, timeboxing focused my attention where it needed to be and helped me finalize the initial research faster than usual.
Would I recommend timeboxing activities you tend to procrastinate?
I’d recommend it to anyone who tends to overstretch certain activities or has to work on unpleasant tasks.
Day #27: Create a break list
For this day, I decided to spice up my short breaks, create a varied list of break activities (i.e. activities I’ll do per each short break), and see how they would affect my workday.
How I created a break list
I decided to take a short, 5-minute break every hour and 1 longer, half-hour lunch break. I planned out fun activities I enjoy doing and made sure no two breaks were the same.
Here’s my break list:
How having a varied break list affected my productivity
My breaks were short and sweet, and I really enjoyed every one of them. However, they didn’t have much of an effect on my productivity.
In fact, they even disrupted my flow a bit since sometimes they would interrupt me while I was quite focused on work. Maybe I shouldn’t have scheduled them so rigidly and left my options open.
Would I recommend making a break list?
From time to time, it could be fun to vary your breaks. Just make sure you’re flexible enough so that they don’t disrupt your schedule.
Day #28: Start your day with meditation
Meditation is supposed to have many benefits for the brain, including increased attention span. I decided to try starting my day with a short meditation and see what happens.
How I started my day with meditation
I’m a long-standing yoga practitioner, so I’m familiar with the great effects of meditation on the mind and body. But, I usually practice in the afternoon, i.e. after work.
This time, I decided to offset my workday with a short meditation. I chose a 15-minute guided practice with one of my favorite online yoga teachers — Yoga with Kassandra. I rolled out my yoga mat as soon as I woke up, sat down, and meditated.
How starting my day with meditation affected my productivity
A short morning meditation definitely helped me start my day with a clear mind and a sense of calm. The state of mind it put me in allowed me to focus more easily on the initial tasks, but, expectedly, the effects waned off during the day.
Nevertheless, it was worth it, and it didn’t take too much of my time.
Would I recommend starting your day with meditation?
I’d recommend it, especially if you have a stressful day ahead of you and you’re feeling a bit uneasy.
Day #29: Use the Action Method to organize your day
The Action Method is a time management technique you can use to organize your activities like small projects. I tried it to see if it would help me stay organized and focused.
How I tried the Action Method
In the Action Method, you organize your work using three categories:
- Action points — the tasks you need to complete,
- References — notes, reference articles, and anything that can help you complete your steps, and
- Backburner items — ideas and plans you want to realize, but they aren’t priorities.
I used the project management tool Plaky to define my categories:
How the Action Method affected my productivity
The Action Method categories helped me have everything I need in one place and not lose sight of important details.
In a way, it was similar to using a to-do list, but a bit more elaborate. All in all, it helped me stay organized and not have to shuffle between tasks and tabs.
Would I recommend using the Action Method to organize your day?
You could benefit from this method if your tasks are a bit more elaborate and more akin to mini-projects.
Day #30: Review your month and pick your favorite productivity hacks
This month of productivity challenges was quite a wild ride. I learned a lot, had tons of fun, and found tips and tricks that will become a part of my regular arsenal for fighting off procrastination.
Some of the challenges were silly (like dressing up while working from home or DMing myself quotes), but others were quite useful.
Some productivity hacks that will probably stick with me include:
- Identifying time-wasters and eliminating them (it taught me how to control my impulses),
- Starting daunting tasks using the 10-minute rule (it gave me a tool to kick-start a task when I dread it the most),
- Listening to video game soundtracks (they seem to work magic on my brain and drive), and
- Working in the DND mode (it showed me no one’s going to die if I shut off messages for a few hours to focus on deep work).
In reality, I learned something through all of the challenges and techniques (even if only that they weren’t for me).
Conclusion: Try the great productivity challenge and surprise yourself
People aren’t born either productive or lazy — productivity is a skill to be honed through various methods and relentless practice.
Even while going through these challenges, I adopted tips and techniques that I would later use to make the next day’s challenge more successful.
I encourage you to try something similar yourself and see how much you’ll learn about yourself, your habits, your pain points, and your potential in the process.
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