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7 smart ways to structure your day for max productivity, according to science

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BJ_0065 (2).jpgIn this ultra-competitive industry, every broker you know is working as hard as they can. Just look around you—people placing calls, dashing off to meet prospects, poring over new listings.

So what’s going to set you apart? Working smarter, not harder. Here are seven science-backed productivity tips that can give you a huge edge.

  1. Get a dose of energy first thing in the morning. Exercising even for a short period of time has the power to energize you and leave you feeling ready for anything. Plus, according to Princeton researchers, being active can actually calm your brain’s response to stress, as well as decrease anxiety levels. So hit the gym, go for a jog, or take a stroll before the workday begins, and you’ll get to the office feeling sharp, energized, and at the top of your game.
  2. Put on the right music. Music can set the cadence for the whole day ahead, potentially making you more efficient, productive, and positive. But what to put on that playlist? If you’re focused on an intense task, opt for music without lyrics, which can be distracting and keep you from reaching peak productivity. If you’re working on repetitive or mundane tasks, however, music with lyrics can provide a shot of energy to break up the boredom.
  3. Dive right into your work. How many times have you turned to your computer intending to do a specific task, but gotten distracted along the way by your email, newsfeed, or whatever else happened to be on the monitor? There’s an easy remedy. Before you leave work for the day (or head out for lunch), take a few seconds to pull up the window you want to see first thing when you get back. (Check out more procrastination-busting ideas here).
  4. Work for 90 minutes and then take a break (seriously). Sync your workflow with your body’s natural cycles of activity and rest, and you’ll stay more productive throughout the day. Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his team at Florida State University discovered that top performers work in 90-minute cycles, with a break at the end of each cycle. Unfortunately, most people mistakenly think that to be productive, they just need to work harder. In reality, you’re better off working with your body’s natural periods of energy (roughly 90 minutes) and then taking 10-20 minute breaks to recharge. Set up your workday to include three 90-minute intense work periods followed by strategic breaks. Doing this means the difference between completing a task in 20 minutes—or struggling through it for what feels like forever.
  5. Save email for designated times. Or at least try not to check it every five minutes—which, by the way, is how often the average person peeks at their inbox. Instead, decide on a specific time to check it during the day—like after lunch, for example. Avoid looking at email first thing in the morning, because that sets you up for responding to other people’s priorities, not working on your own. Holding off on email for longer periods of time can have have a huge impact on your productivity. As (a more extreme) example, when 13 office workers were asked not to check or send emails for an entire work week, they were more productive and less stressed. We don’t suggest holding out for quite as long, of course; it’s up to you to find the right schedule for your needs. Just remember that the longer you can stay away from email the more productive you will be.
  6. Take a post-lunch nap. Yes, we know—you don’t want to be the one caught (literally!) sleeping on the job while everyone else is sprinting through cold calls and wondering who’s snoring. But what about sneaking off for a quick snooze in your car or someplace private? NASA research shows that 26-minute naps can boost your performance by more than a third, and your alertness by half—we think that’s definitely worth the shut-eye.
  7. Plan for tomorrow before you leave your desk. Block out a few minutes at the end of each day to plan what you want to tackle next. Research shows that people who take the time to plan exactly when and how they’ll do a specific task are more likely to actually complete it. Doing this simple thing means you can plunge right into your work the next day, without losing any valuable momentum.

There you have it: seven simple ideas that can completely energize your workday. That means that while everyone else is busy working hard, you’ll be working smart. Not only should you be able to get more work done, you may even have an extra 26 minutes left over for that power nap…