How to Take Back Your Day – 30 Minutes at a Time

Don’t you wish there were more hours in a day? There are so many different projects to handle each day, meetings to attend, clients or customers to appease, decisions to make and documents to approve.

At the end of the day you’re left wondering where all the time went. You crawl into bed glad that you get to sleep and then six hours later it’s the same thing again.

Well, if that’s how you feel, it’s time to turn the tables around. Don’t let your work control you. Here are some productivity hacks to help you take back your day, 30 minutes at a time.

1. Start Your Day With 30 Minutes of Physical Activity

Do not hit that snooze button! Yes, you feel drowsy and tired, but 30 minutes of exercise when you wake up will completely change that.

You don’t need to go through a rigorous weight-training regime. Even a run around the block or some jumping jacks will do you a world of good. It will get your blood flowing and make you feel energized. That’s why Tony Schwartz from the Energy Project starts every day with a workout.

Exercise has been scientifically proven to increase focus for a short period afterwards. Starting your day with exercise will allow you to focus through the morning and boost your productivity. Ride that peak as you block out distractions and knock off the tasks on your priority list. No wonder Virgin’s Richard Branson believes that working out gives him an additional four hours of productive time every day.

2. Take A Real Lunch Break

By lunchtime that productivity high from your morning workout might start to wane. This would be a good time to step out and grab lunch. The average American office worker eats lunch at their desk two to three days each week. That is a very unhealthy practice.

Not only is it a good idea to take an actual break from work, a change of scenery will also help you refresh and refocus. Getting away from your desk and taking a walk to a café or park where you can eat gets your blood flowing again. When you return, you’ll feel re-energized and ready to take on your next set of tasks.

Besides, you deserve to treat yourself for being so productive all morning! So go ahead and take a real lunch break. Encourage your employees to do so, too. Everyone will become more productive.

3. Make People Earn A Meeting With You

It’s flattering to be asked for advice or a meeting, but those little meetings and calls add up quickly. A one-hour meeting might start a little late or take longer than expected. Before you know it, it has become a two-hour meeting and your next one is only 30 minutes away.

Not only do meetings eat up time, they also disrupt your focus and essentially kill productivity. If you’re in the zone and riding that productivity high, you don’t want suddenly break off important work to attend a meeting that you don’t really need to be involved in. When you finally come back to your desk, you’ve lost all focus and it will be hard to get it back.

On the other hand, it’s impractical to say no to every meeting. You might be missing out on some important conversations and networking opportunities. So take 30 minutes to develop a system that will make people earn a meeting with you. When they’ve earned it, you’ll know the meeting is important and you can set aside some time to schedule it in.

4. Have Only One To Do List

If you are like most people, you have a bunch of scattered notes and thoughts that are tracking what you need to get done. Stop it. Pull them all onto one to do list and get them on paper and out of your head. Once they are all down on paper you can prioritize them and get to work.

When putting down your to-dos, don’t restrict them just to work-related tasks. Include everything in there, whether it’s going to the gym, grocery shopping, or even some unresolved problem that you want to spend some more time on. (Productivity isn’t important only in the office after all.)

It might help to use any one of the many to-do apps out there instead of an actual piece of paper. There are cloud-based solutions that sync your task list across all your devices so that you can still access it on your smartphone if you aren’t in front of your computer. You can even connect your list to your calendar or email account for alerts. When you’re finally done with a task, just whip out your phone and mark it complete!

5. Debrief Yourself At The End Of Every Day

You’ve got through the day and you’re in control of your work. Before you move to the next workday, it’s important to take stock of and reflect on what’s happened. Set aside about 15 to 30 minutes each night and look over the tasks you’ve been able to complete. If you feel you might have been unproductive at times or that you could have done more during the day, identify why that happened and figure out how to fix it.

Use this time to prepare for the next day as well. You can refill your task list and plan your schedule.


If you’ve made it through this far and successfully implemented the above productivity hacks, you are now the proud owner of your time. You are in full control of your day and you have more time to spend on yourself and your family.

Now, don’t pick up the remote and start watching TV! Unless you’re watching Arrested Development, in which case it’s all right.

Try these hacks and track how much time you think you saved by being productive. Then come and boast to us about it. We’d love to hear your stories.