Most everyone wants to be more productive in our personal and professional lives in order to accomplish more. The problem is that we then turn to strategies such as working longer hours, making very detailed and complicated lists, and including on these lists lofty goals such as run 10 miles a day starting tomorrow. A better way is to slow down, relax and not try to be a superman or superwoman. Here are some tips to increase productivity without increasing your stress level.

Have a goal in mind
As the saying goes, if you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? When it comes to productivity, you need to know your purpose for the task, its priority level, any deadlines and be able to answer “why am I doing this.” If the answer deems the project to be solely busy work or a time-suck that does not add to the overall goal, it may not be the most productive use of your time.

Clear Your Mind
Exercising is a great way to clear one’s mind and there are actual physical reasons why this happens. Exercise improves cognitive health by raising your heartbeat and increasing blood flow to your brain. Your breathing rate also increases, which pumps more oxygen into your bloodstream and to your brain.

Take a Break
After you finish one task, take a few minutes to take a walk, have some water or do something that is less taxing on your brain in order to give it time to reset. As someone who does a lot of writing, I find writing a draft, taking a small break and then going back to proofread my work makes the editing process much more efficient. Of course, longer breaks such as a night off, time with the family without cellphones and vacations also help to refresh one’s productivity and enthusiasm.

Focus on one task
People often will try to accomplish too much at once either by multi-tasking or because the project itself is too vast. Multi-tasking is like juggling you are jumping between tasks, not giving any the full attention they deserve and really not accomplishing much. It is better to define a manageable size and scope of a project and work on one element at a time until the entire project is completed.

Have a Productive Environment
Your office and desk can help you to be productive. Did you ever notice that when a chef does a cooking demonstration all the ingredients are measured in advance and lined up in order of need? The same can be said for a project such as finding needed reports, needed information, and having the right routine.

Sweet Dreams
In college, “pulling an all nighter” was seen as a badge of courage or desperation, depending on your viewpoint. While it does provide additional hours to complete a task, lack of sleep results in lack of productivity. Numerous studies have shown that “losing one hour of sleep per night for a week will cause a level of cognitive degradation equivalent to a .10 blood alcohol level.” If you are not getting enough sleep, you will not be productive.

For more advice on increasing productivity, see Become More Organized to be More Productive This Year.