How To: Healthy Productivity

Healthy Productivity

Amidst the pressure of the daily grind, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other professionals can slip into unhealthy habits: staring at a screen for hours on end, ‘working’ all day without accomplishing anything, ignoring anxiety because ‘you’ll deal with that when you have time.’ We’ve all been there at one point or another. To help you be intentional about what you do and establish healthy systems for working, here are my favorite healthy productivity tools and strategies. Try implementing one, then try another, or get creative and mix and match techniques as you see fit!

POMODORO: Setting the pace

The Pomodoro technique is probably the best-kept secret for improving productivity. I have raved about this method since college, and I’m using it to write this blog post! The Pomodoro technique is exquisitely simple:

  1. Pick ONE task 
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes
  3. Work on that ONE task 
  4. When the timer ends, take a break for 5 minutes
  5. Repeat!

Why it works

The Pomodoro technique sets a clear time parameter for accomplishing tasks. You can always adjust the exact amount of time you allot for producing work versus resting, but the classic 25-5 format is preferable, if only because four of these sessions neatly line up to two full hours of work AND rest. 

Keep in mind

I highly recommend that you use the five minute breaks to move your body! Refill your water, grab a fresh cup of coffee, stretch your back, legs, and hands. They’ll thank you later.


KANBAN BOARD: Visualizing the work

A Kanban Board is a flexible visual representation of the work you need to do. This website has a wonderful break-down of the set up of a Kanban Board, including suggestions for use, but here’s my recommendation for jumping right in:

  1. Create a 3×3 grid. On your grid, you will be organizing your to-do list by stages of completion across the top and how urgent their completion is. This can be done on paper, on an excel spreadsheet, or on nine notecards you fix to the nearest wall. 
  2. Label your grid across the top (for completion): To-Do, Doing, Done
  3. Label your grid going down (for priority): Top, Mid, Low

Congrats! You now have a visual plan of priorities, so you can get back to your productivity!

Why it works

If you are a tactile or visual learner, this may help you synthesize the act of physically moving your priorities into order and seeing how urgent certain tasks are. 

Keep in mind

Try not to let too many tasks pile up in one category over another. If you see an imbalance in the amount of projects in-progress versus completed, it may be time to reevaluate your goals or your process. 

A man standing at a whiteboard with sticky notes on it
Try using sticky notes to represent your tasks

BRAIN DUMP/BRAIN DRAIN: Clearing the air

I have already made a longer post detailing the use and creation of a Brain Drain, but if you’re crunched for time, here’s a good starting point:

  1. Grab a pen and paper
  2. Set a timer for ten minutes
  3. In those ten minutes, write down everything that crosses your mind. Whether it’s a call you need to return, an gift idea for a birthday dinner you have coming up, or the project your boss assigns you, get it all on paper

Why it works

Writing down a comprehensive list of what is occupying your thoughts can ease a worried mind. 

Keep in mind

Making a full Brain Drain can be time consuming. Set aside time (even just a single morning or lunch break) to write down everything you need to keep track of. f

BODY DOUBLING: Accountabili-buddies

It’s as simple as it sounds: 

  • Grab a buddy (the ‘body’) 
  • Sit at your workspace together (the ‘doubling’)
  • Work on your tasks

No, really, that’s all there is to it. You don’t have to be working on the same project– the act of seeing someone in your vicinity working on (insert activity here) can be a subtle but very influential motivator. 

Why it works

Quite simply: monkey see, monkey do. The presence of another person tap-tap-typing away at their computer can subconsciously increase your desire to work on your own task. Skeptical? Try it for yourself! 

Pro tip: If you work in a private office, or don’t otherwise have someone near you, you can find videos on Youtube that serve the same purpose. Here are some links to my favorite ‘Study With Me’ videos, which usually consist of footage of someone studying, writing, and generally working at a desk. You can find more videos like these, all with different visual aesthetics, some have music while some don’t, and some even use Pomodoro timers to follow along with. 

Three people sitting around a desk and talking
Key Coworking in San Antonio TX

Final Thoughts

Chances are that if you’re looking for ways to be productive in a healthy and sustainable way, you may require the quintessential human refresher: REST. 

Q: But, Alex! I don’t have time!

A: Yes you do. 

Q: How is rest more important than putting another hour on the clock?

A: Your body (physical and mental health) is like a car. If you do not schedule regular maintenance, your car will schedule it for you. 

Every so often, you have to schedule maintenance on your car. The oil needs changing, the tires need rotating, and so on. These are things we prioritize, because getting around is essential for most of us. Now, why would you ever put more work into your car than into your own person? 

Keep in mind

As adults we are responsible for bringing joy, peace, and balance into our own lives. Fill your cup as often as you reasonably can, and hopefully the effects will runneth over and bring positive energy to the environments you inhabit!

For more advice on productivity and business skills, see the rest of Key Coworking’s blog.

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