Transform your career with these 5 productive work habits

/ 10 min read
Kat Boogaard

It seems like we’re all on an endless quest to get more done. And as long as you maintain realistic expectations and don’t tiptoe into toxic productivity territory, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to stretch your time for maximum impact.

Particularly as we all grapple with ever-changing work environments, increasingly strapped resources, and seemingly never-ending demands on our time, identifying and implementing some productive work habits can help us feel a little more in control of our otherwise unwieldy to-do lists.

Not sure where to begin amidst the avalanche of hacks, systems, routines, and “make your bed” platitudes? We’ve pulled together five tried and true productivity strategies, along with actionable tips to help you get started—today.


  • This article discusses five tried and true productivity strategies that help you be more productive and have a healthier relationship with work.
  • Strategy 1: Find and use your "golden hours"—the times of the day when you are naturally most productive and focused. Keep a diary for a week and write them down, then plan your workday accordingly.
  • Strategy 2: Set up easy access to important information you constantly need in your everyday job. For example, you might have a Notion page with the info you rely on often, use email folders and labels, or use a password manager.
  • Strategy 3: Stop context-switching! Achieve peak focus by closing email tabs, putting instant messages on hold, and using noise-cancelling headphones for deep work sessions.
  • Strategy 4: Prioritize your physical and mental health. Take breaks, try to get enough sleep, and set boundaries between work and home.
  • Strategy 5: Use templates wherever you can. Whether it's for a document, an email, or a Paperform survey—templates speed up the process and free you up to concentrate on other things.
  • By implementing these strategies, you can feel more in control of your work and increase your productivity.

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1. Find (and use) your golden hours

Whether you realize it or not, you likely already have times of day when you naturally feel energized and focused. You also have times when you feel like a human slug (sigh, it’s that classic afternoon slump).

You can thank your body’s ultradian rhythms for that. These are natural cycles that occur frequently within a 24-hour period and explain those periodic (and oftentimes predictable) dips in your energy.

Are your eyes glazing over? Don’t worry—you don’t really need to understand the science here. The most important thing to do is pinpoint the times when you’re hyper-attentive, as well as the times when you’re drained and dragging. That helps you be more strategic with how you plan your work by assigning your more creative and demanding tasks to your super-focused times and saving menial tasks for times when you’re dragging.

How to get started

  • Keep a simple log: Record your work days for a week or two (one day alone won’t cut it). This doesn’t need to be anything complicated or overly detailed. Even a Google Doc or a sticky note on your computer monitor will do the trick. You simply need a space where you can jot down how you feel at different times throughout the day. Set a timer for every hour or 90 minutes if you’re worried you’ll forget.
  • Review your notes: After a week or two, look back to see if you can spot any trends or patterns. There are bound to be outliers, but your goal is to find some common threads between your work days—like that you always feel sluggish after lunch.
  • Act on the information: Those trends are only helpful if you do something with them. When you’ve identified your most focused times of day, do what you can to preserve those times for yourself—whether you need to move a recurring meeting or block off your calendar.

2. Set up easy access to important information

For too many people, finding the information they need is a task more fitting for Sherlock Holmes. They scroll through old email threads, dig through file folders, and follow a winding, convoluted path just to get a single note or resource.

While estimates vary, recent research says that the average employee spends over three-and-a-half hours every single day searching for the information they need to do their jobs. Regardless of the specific digit, having to repeatedly hunt down information is pretty inefficient.

Setting up systems to ensure you have easy and straightforward access to the information you frequently rely on is a productivity tip that requires a bit of an upfront investment in time and energy, but pays dividends in the long run.

How to get started

  • Create a cheat sheet: Those random codes for your expense report? The three-step process to request work from the marketing team? Your brain simply can’t store all of those little nuggets, and looking for them over and over again in old files or emails wastes time. Create a single document in a tool like Notion where you can store and organise these types of tidbits and then keep your document within reach on your desktop. Of course, just be careful with any sensitive or confidential information—that probably needs to stay somewhere more secure.
  • Use email folders and stars: If you find yourself frequently referring back to old messages, find an efficient way to organise them with folders or even stars to pull all of your most important emails into one spot.
  • Use a password manager: The average person has 100 passwords. That’s way too many to remember, and yet repeating passwords is a big cybersecurity no-no. A password manager like 1Password or LastPass does the hard work for you. You just need to remember one master password in order to get easy and efficient access to all of your other accounts.

3. Tune out distractions to achieve peak focus

You might think that you’re a whiz at monitoring your inbox while working on a slide deck while immediately responding to instant messages. You feel like you’re getting a lot done all at once—look at you go!

The bad news is that you aren’t actually multitasking the way you think you are. You’re context switching, which is a fancy term that means you’re rapidly jumping between tasks. And that relentless switching of gears comes at a cost in terms of your productivity.

Every time you rip your focus away for a distraction, it takes you a little over 23 minutes to fully refocus on the original task. Plus, all of those disruptions are exhausting. The same study found that, after only 20 minutes of interrupted performance, people reported significantly higher stress, frustration, workload, effort, and pressure.

If you really want to get meaningful work accomplished, you need to eliminate (or at least minimize) your major distractions.

How to get started

  • Close out your email tab: If you’re known for keeping a constant, watchful eye on your inbox, release yourself from that temptation by closing out that tab whenever you need to zone in on a task. If that space from your inbox makes you feel uneasy, set an autoresponder or clearly outline expectations about your typical response time.
  • Put instant messages on do not disturb: Today, emails aren’t our only digital distractions. If you also use an instant message solution, turn on “do not disturb” when you need to focus. You could also set up a shorthand system with your team—like putting a specific emoji in your status (🧠 for example)  means you’re in deep work mode and will respond when you’re back.
  • Use a browser blocker: Do you fall victim to the siren song of distracting sites (hello, YouTube)? A browser blocker like Freedom or StayFocusd can help you set up digital restrictions and automatic reminders to avoid those time-wasters and stay committed to your work.

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4. Take care of your body (and not just your brain)

Wellness tips probably aren’t what you expect to see when looking for ways to get more done at work, but how you feel physically has a huge impact on your energy, focus, and productivity.

This isn’t novel information—we all know we should drink more water or that we should reach for a handful of nuts when we need a mid-morning snack rather than a pastry. But admittedly these healthy routines are easy to say and way harder to implement.

Don’t overwhelm yourself by overhauling your diet or committing to a rigorous training program. Even seemingly simple and small changes to prioritize your physical health during your workday can make a surprisingly big difference.

How to get started

  • Keep water handy: Find an extra large water bottle to keep with you on your desk so you can easily stay hydrated throughout the day.
  • Take frequent breaks: It’s tempting to think that more time chained to your computer equates to higher productivity, but your brain and your body need breaks. Get up frequently to stretch your muscles, get some movement in, and give your eyes a much-needed vacation from the screen. You can try using the Pomodoro Technique—working in 25-minute chunks with five-minute breaks between—if you need regular reminders to get up and move.
  • Invest in desk accessories: Whether it’s a wrist rest for your keyboard, an ergonomic cushion for your desk chair, a stand to raise up your monitor, or anything else, don’t be afraid to purchase some tools and gadgets that help you set up an office that’s more supportive of your work and your wellbeing.

5. Use templates to avoid reinventing the wheel

Starting something from scratch—whether it’s a slide deck, a survey, a workflow, or something else—takes a lot of extra time. It also leaves way more room for inconsistency and error, particularly if somebody needs to take over that task for you at some point.

That’s the beauty of templates. They give you a helpful and customizable structure and starting point so you don’t need to invest hours and elbow grease into those early stages.

You can create templates for yourself or see if some of the tools you’re already using offer ready-made templates that you can tweak.

How to get started

  • Create and save templated documents: Take note of anything you frequently use or create, whether it’s a creative brief or a survey that you run every quarter. Set up a simple template and store it somewhere where it’s accessible to anyone who might need it. Paperform has a huge template gallery if you’re looking for pre-built form templates specifically.
  • Set up canned email responses: If there are certain emails you send time and time again, set up a canned response so that you can drop in the bulk of your email body with one click and then quickly customize the details.

Maximize your workday and your wellbeing

We all want to make more efficient use of our time, and there’s nothing wrong with that—in fact, it’s a smart thing to do.

But remember to give yourself some grace too. While the above tips will help you work more effectively (and hopefully feel better about the work you’re doing too) you’re still a human and not a machine.

You aren’t meant to be productive every single moment of every single day, and no amount of clever productivity strategies will change that. And honestly, trying to do so is a one-way ticket straight to burnout.

If you want to make some strategic changes to better manage your work and your own wellbeing? Give the above tips a try. And if all else fails, a quick nap never hurt anyone.

About the author
Kat Boogaard
Paperform Contributor
Kat is a freelance writer focused on our working world. When she’s not at her computer, you’ll find her spending time with her family—which includes two adorable sons and two rebellious rescue mutts.

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