How to Have a Productive Day

I am not immune to unproductive days, and I’ve had more than my fair share of them recently.

In order to get back on track, I’ve regrouped and, with the help of a coach, reminded myself of these principles.

They really work – when you do them.


Start The Day With 3 Intentional Steps

I swear by the importance of these first three steps. When I don’t do them, I am significantly more overwhelmed and stressed out. Doing them brings peace of mind and helps me start my day on my terms rather than diving in and responding to everything being pushed at me.

1. Decide that you’re going to have a productive day, and then use the next two steps to figure out how that will look for you.

2. Check in with your big projects to see if you need to define more tasks associated with them.

3. Look over your task list. Update it and prioritize your tasks for the day. Ensure that you have time set aside to do what you expect to get done.

Maintain Boundaries Throughout The Day

As you go through your day, keep these tips in mind.

Process email.

Download your email, look for possible important messages and respond, delete spam, make necessary tasks. Try not to read email without acting on it.

You will do this one or two more times during the day and that's it.

Whatever you do, do not look at email within the last couple of hours (at least!) before heading to bed. Inboxes sometimes hold unpleasant surprises, which you don’t need to confront at the end of a long day.

Ignore interruptions.

If you’re focusing on studio work or writing, you can return the phone call or text later. If this is beyond temptation, turn your phone off or put it in another room.

Jumping whenever someone contacts you is saying that their priorities are more important than your own.

Take Breaks

We need downtime to be our most productive and happiest. If you’ve been glued to the keyboard, get up and move every hour. If you’ve been standing for several hours, sit down and have a cup of tea.

If monkey mind is messing with you, try meditation or a quick nap. In my experience, monkey mind hangs around until I make a clean break with whatever I’m trying to accomplish.

Wrap Up the Day

During the last hour of the day, start slowing down and getting into the mindset that you need to leave work behind.

Look over your calendar. What’s coming up?

Write down your most important tasks for tomorrow.

Remember not to check email during the last couple of hours before bed.

Get a good night’s sleep so you can be productive all over again tomorrow.

Need More?

Grease your productivity systems so that you can handle all of the success that comes your way.

Join me for Art Biz Accelerator, an all-online class. We look at trusting your task list, cleaning out paper and e-files, whittling down your piles, emptying your inbox, and more. Click here for the details.

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10 thoughts on “How to Have a Productive Day”

  1. Thank you for this very timely reminder Alyson…I SO needed to hear this today. And to anyone who is considering taking your “Organizing Your Art Biz” course, DO IT! I highly recommend it…it’s helped me tremendously over the last year. Thanks for all you do Alyson…you are appreciated!


  2. Good things to think about! I find that if the pesky monkey-mind things can be moved to a to-do list or otherwise captured in real time instead of just chattering around in my head, that helps productivity too.

  3. Some of us do these things already. I have a agenda book, every night I sit down & write down 4 top tasks that must be done the next day. When those 4 items get done, then I allow myself free time if I want or get a jump start on tomorrows tasks.

    I don’t answer my cell or home phone when working, all calls are returned in the evening after my work is done. I check my e-mails while sitting here eating my breakfast, set a timer allow myself only 15 minutes to go through, answer, delete, then to work I go!

    I do check my e-mails a hour before bedtime as I check to see if there were any sales made for the day, can get those items pulled out & ready to ship out the next day.

    Doing things this way actually frees up my schedule where I end up not feeling stressed out & overwhelmed and actually have time for myself and can go out for drinks, visit with family or what have you.

    I have been doing this method for several years, works for me!

  4. Hi Alyson,
    The simple: mornings are for administration, email sorting, domestic issues etc followed by a light lunch; afternoons art for making art, continues to work well for me.

    It’s just the holding of the brush that has issues!

  5. Hi Alyson,

    Thank you. I am going to read this over once every few days. So good and helpful.

    Thanks again,


  6. Thank you for this. I like the intention. I do that sometimes, unconsciously, and it’s the most important thing I do. Although I’m more focused on my writing than my art right now, I continue to find great help here, and I’ll most likely be in your course in a few days. Thank you.

  7. I love all of this advice, especially the advice to take a break! I think I often run into trouble where I’m almost overly productive and without breaks I burn out very quickly before I can accomplish what I set out to do. Not checking email before bed and deciding your goals for the day is great too. I love keeping lists to scratch stuff away on and keep my head straight.

  8. Wow, Susan! You certainly made my day! My week! My year! Thanks so much for your befiutaul blog about DANCE. Seeing the book online – and not just on a shelf above my desk – brings back such special memories. DANCE is so deep in my heart, it just kills me that it is out-of-print. Working with Bill T. Jones, creating language to movement, interpreting movement to the page, is a privilege that comes with writing and photographing nonfiction. We are so lucky.And Sue, an app is a terrific idea. I do have the rights and will forward this to Bill.Happy New Year everyone. And again, thanks so much Susan.

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