5 Habits to Build a Productive Routine & Feel Fulfilled Each Day


When you hear the word "productivity," you probably imagine yourself utilizing every waking hour to cross items off your to-do list (personal and professional), multitasking to get the max out of every minute, and not wasting time looking out the window or gently watering your plants.

But this archaic idea of productivity comes from the Industrial Revolution. The definition of productivity needs to change as we do more cognitively demanding and creative work. Output is no longer a function of hours worked, and time spent relaxing can help you create more impact.

In this post, we will explore what productivity is, why you might not be productive, and (as promised in the title) how you can be more productive at work while not giving up on personal goals and life.

Here's how we would define productivity — It is a way to achieve your goals while having time to spend on things that matter. It is about sustainably and skillfully managing your energy to finish more work in less time.

Why Do You Want to Be More Productive?

Do you want to be more productive because you care or because you just have to be? If your motivation to be more productive is to cram more things in the same day, it might lead to job burnout.

Identifying the right reasons to be productive can help you stick to your habits for longer. Some of the reasons we believe are great motivators for building a productive routine are:

  • If you're able to reach your goals sooner, that leaves you time to live a balanced life. You'll have more free time to do the things you enjoy doing apart from work such as time with family and friends, hobbies you enjoy, doing activities you would do for fun.
  • It will reduce stress as you will be able to do what you said you would do. The sense of accomplishment leads to satisfaction and happiness.
  • When you are mindful of your behavior and have systems in place to get the greatest results day after day, it will lead to growth and progress.

Why Are You Not Productive?

Before jumping to the solution, diagnose a bit on why you might not be productive so you can customize your productivity habits to watch out for those traps.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to identify your reason for not being productive:

  • Do you find yourself doing something against your better judgment? Do you tend to focus on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities instead of important tasks with looming deadlines? — Aka, procrastinate.
  • Are you prone to multitasking? Is checking emails while having lunch your new norm, and you don't know what else to do while chewing your food?
  • Are you living by your inbox rather than your calendar? This means do your emails guide the way your workday will look rather than the tasks you have to do.
  • Have you figured out the time of the day when you are most energetic, alert, or creative?
  • Do you know what goals you are trying to achieve? Without any meaning attached to your work, you won't be productive even if you implement this guide, get the best apps, or find the masters to teach you the skill.

5 Productivity Habits That Work For Almost Everyone

Make a Doable To-Do List

We tend to judge ourselves against the things we want to do in a day, not the things we can actually accomplish (or did accomplish) in our limited time and energy. As a result, there are always a few items that are left unchecked, and we end our day feeling unaccomplished.

If you see that your list is bigger than you can accommodate in a day, use the following methods to prioritize what needs to be done today and should be done only by you:

  • Eisenhower matrix — A time management strategy that helps you sort tasks into four different categories based on urgency and importance.


  • 4D method — Putting tasks in the Delete, Delegate, Defer, or Do bucket can help you manage the limited time more effectively and do the tasks that you can make the most impact with.

If you are creating your to-do list on paper, say goodbye to that. Written to-do lists provide a satisfying feeling of crossing something off, but they're also the worst to keep track of, defer, delete, and move around your tasks. Switch to a digital tool like Sunsama, which will integrate with your project management tools and calendar to pull in tasks and meetings to your to-do list.

In Sunsama, you can also add a time estimate to each task. As you add estimates, your "workload counter" will update to reflect how many hours you are committing for the day, and you will be able to see if your workload is reasonable.

Breakdown Big Task Into Small Subtasks

As simple as it sounds — take a big task and break it into smaller tasks. Ensure that each task will take no longer than 30 minutes to complete. If you are estimating more time, then break down the task further.

This strategy is helpful because:

  • With each tiny task completed, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. The dopamine rush will keep you motivated and help you be more productive.
  • Instead of focusing for 3-4 hours, you are required to focus in batches of 25-30min.
  • Knowing that you don't have to finish a huge task at once reduces stress and stops you from running away from it.
  • Instead of feeling like you haven't progressed at all, you will always have an idea of how much I have already worked for something. This will help build momentum to finish the task.

Find your most focused time of the day.

Identify the time of the day when you feel extremely focused and can get through a tough task with ease without extending the timeline to finish it. During this time, no distractions or worries occupy your time. It can be during the day right or at night.

Block this time for some deep work — work that demands cognitive abilities and has a high impact on your goals. Doing the most intense tasks while you have the energy to handle them is an important trick to be more productive.

Take frequent breaks & recharge.

The brain's ability to focus, stay attentive, and be creative diminishes with each intense block of work. The loss of these resources must be replenished; otherwise, it becomes harder to stay on-task.

Choose a small 10-minute break every hour and two larger breaks during the day. During your break, engage in an activity that can take your mind off work. Remember to block your time during breaks, so you don't get any surprise meetings eating up your recharge time.

Methods like the Pomodoro Technique can help. It suggests 25-minute blocks of work, followed by short 5-minute breaks.


Highly productive people also spend enough time recharging their minds and body at the end of the day. At the end of the workday, no consideration of work should happen until the next morning.

Resist after-dinner email checks, mental replays of conversations, and no scheming about how you'll handle an upcoming challenge.

Reflect To Keep Improving

If we don't reflect back on our mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. If we don't know what's working, we will miss the opportunities for real breakthroughs. So it's important to reflect on your productivity habits at least once a week to keep improving.

Here are a few questions that Sunsama's co-founder Ashutosh uses (and you can do too!) to guide his weekly reflection:

1) Where did I spend my time? What areas took up most of my time and attention? Any surprises? — This is to reflect on out-of-the-blue challenges, interruptions, or tasks that took longer than expected.

2) Did I spend my time in a way that brings me closer to achieving my long-term objectives? Why or why not? — Answering this question can help you use time more thoughtfully going forward.

3) How do I feel? Which work was refreshing? What type of work was draining? Is this a workload I can sustain? — This question can help you re-evaluate your relationship with my work before it becomes toxic.

We've created a visualization in Sunsama to show you where you spend your time. You can see these charts on a daily or weekly basis.

“Will I Be Productive Every Single Day?”

All the work that we suggested you do in the above sections seems easy to read but hard to implement. It will be harder on days when you won't have anyone to delegate tasks to, or your must-do list will look like a ginormous tower of tasks. There would be times when you not be focused even at your most productive time.

And you don't have to beat yourself up for those because the goal is not to be 100% productive or utilize all 24 hours of the day. Focus on building a system that helps you work less but has the same outcome.

Building these systems without the help of tools would be tough, especially if you have a variety of tasks each day. Imagine having a tool that is designed to help you timebox, warn you of high workload, and show you how you spend your time.

Wouldn't it be easier to stay productive?

Moreover, there's a big difference between movement and achievement. While to-do lists can make you feel accomplished when you complete tasks, they don't have a system that moves you closer to your goals. That's why you need the right productivity companion.

Try Sunsama. It is a daily planning assistant that combines tasks, calendars, and project management tools in one place. It has time management strategies like time blocking in-built. You can try the app for free for 14 days without giving any credit card.

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