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Essential Routines for a Productive & Less Stressful 2021

When we were sent home last March, we patched together work habits to survive the new world of work and life. You endured and made it to 2021.

Now, as the new year unfolds, it’s time to level up and replace survival work processes, with practices that support and enable your productive side, performance, and peace of mind.

Here are the three essential routines you need to make the months ahead more productive and less stressful.


When the commute to your “office” is a few minutes from your bedroom to your sofa or kitchen table and the days of pandemic life merge together, it’s imperative to identify your energy boost moment so you can get an early win to ignite your energy and motivation for the day. Here are four ways you can jump-start your day.

Compete to beat your own time. Time yourself on a routine task. For example, how long does it take you to make breakfast? Read and respond to 12 emails? Or prepare the weekly report? Turn these routine tasks into a competition with yourself and see how fast you can go. You will be surprised at how much you can accomplish and how motivated you are to take on the day.

Organise and empower your perfectionism. Straighten up your workspace, file emails, or alphabetize your spices. Then stand back, admire your work, and tell yourself you did a great job. Now move on to the first task on your task list with confidence and vigor.

Dress in clothes that make you feel professional and productive. Before you skip over this potential energy boost moment, know that there is a scientific theory called “enclothed cognition” that supports the effect that clothes have on how we feel and act. According to Dr. Nina Vasan, a psychiatrist and clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, “Clothing shapes your mental state and productivity. When you are stuck at home all day, what you wear can set the tone for what you are doing.” Dig into the back of your closet and pull out your favorite jacket, dress, or shirt. Put it on and use it to get your mind ready to work.

Move your body. You’ve heard it before, however, exercise does work to elevate your energy level. In a University of Georgia randomized controlled trial, researchers split people into three groups” low-intensity, moderate-intensity, and a control group (no exercise). During the six-week experiment, both exercise groups reported growing levels of energy compared to the control group. And, the good news, the low-intensity group reported less fatigue than the moderate-intensity group. Start your day with jumping jacks, a walk, or a few yoga poses, and get your blood and energy flowing.


Targeted, intentional planning is how you achieve your goals and reduce stress. When you plan your upcoming work week, follow the four-step S.T.A.R. process.

S – Strategic: Review your strategic goals for the month.

T – Tasks: Identify the tasks that support the accomplishment of your strategic objectives. These are the discrete next action steps you need to perform to achieve your goals. Clarity is essential. Focus on the “must-dos,” not the “nice to-dos.” All action steps need to start with an action verb, for example, submit, call, or email.

A – Allocate: Allocate time on your calendar to complete your tasks. Is there time available on your calendar to complete the tasks required to achieve your goals? If not, look for opportunities to create time capacity. Can you decline a meeting where you are not required to provide information, represent a constituency, or be a decision-maker? Can you shorten a meeting or look for an alternative way to accomplish the meeting’s objective? Can you renegotiate a deadline to create capacity this week?

Now, you are ready to organise your calendar to achieve your goals. You have three options: block your days in either small, precise increments of time, block your days in larger time increments or create theme days. To create theme days, you organize your days around a theme, category, or type of work. For example, administration, team development, sales, prospecting, or writing. Review your tasks and the core accountabilities of your job to determine your theme days. Once you have identified your themes, select a theme or themes for each day of the week. Note the theme for that day on your calendar, and complete tasks and projects aligned to that theme.

R – Results: Commit to your results. When you are asked to attend a meeting without an agenda or join a call to “catch-up,” remember that every time you say yes to a request, you are saying no to something else. Honour you and your time. Intentionally say “yes” and “no” to requests for your time.


In a remote work environment, it’s difficult to receive the affirmation and praise you readily heard in your office. Gone are the days of a “thank-you” in the break room from your colleague or the “great job on the presentation” from your boss as you walk past their office. It’s up to you to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments and successes. At the end of the work week assess how productive you were and how well you aligned with your strategic goals, or count your check marks on your task list, or reflect on any positive feedback you received via email or on a Zoom call. We all want and need to be seen and valued. Recognise how you have added value to your team, company, and customers.

It’s a new year. Use the start of the year as an opportunity to create new routines that will energise you, which will make you more productive, and remove stress from your workday.

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