Back to Basics for Powerful Productivity

Stick to the Basics for Powerful Productivity

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All-star baseball players routinely practice fundamentals. Million Dollar Club salespeople make daily cold calls. And so it is with productivity. The five basics of food, sleep, exercise, communication, and space cannot be replaced or replicated. You can have the most organized to-do list or the highest technology running your projects, but if you haven’t slept well, nourished yourself, or communicated clearly, you are likely not going to be at your peak performance.

The more you focus on the fundamentals of your individual wellness, the greater your capacity to focus on the bigger picture. Whether you are an employee, CEO, or stay-at-home mom (which I consider CEO of the family), you gotta know what your best practices are, stick to them, and create consistency so you can show up at your best for whatever you’re focusing on in both your work and home life. 

In my years of consulting and coaching with teams and companies in all areas of productivity and workplace and life efficiency, these five basics stand out over everything else: 

Food: Proper nutrition is critical to all bodily functions, but it’s most important to top-notch decision-making as priorities shift through the day. Yep, I guarantee that come 3 p.m. on a skipped-lunch belly that your calendar app is going to look fuzzy. 

Three tools: Plan meals for the week. Pack lunch the night before. Stop skipping lunch!

Sleep: It stands to reason that when we don’t get enough sleep, our work suffers. Health professionals recommend seven to nine hours of sleep a night for adults. Remember, there is a difference between enough sleep for performing optimally and getting by. With chronic sleep deprivation attention, and focus are hijacked, everything gets wonky, and decision-making becomes impaired.

Three tools: Set a timer to start going to bed earlier. Declutter your bedside table. Be consistent in when you go to bed — you can easily create your own jetlag situation when sleep is not consistent, which wreaks havoc on the body.

Exercise: Exercise does a body good. New research shows it doesn’t take much — just 30 minutes of walking per day or 20 pushups and 20 sit-ups can be good enough. Exercise is all about the planning! It has less to do with motivation and more to do with planning. The more friction there is between you and your plan, the less likely you are to execute it.

Three tools: Plan a month of exercise on your calendar, blocking the time with specifics of exercise. Pack or lay out clothes, shoes, and iPod the night before. Find an accountabilibuddy (a k a: accountability partner).


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Communication: Communication goes both ways. I have seen very clean systems break down quickly due to a lack of simple communication. Effective communication is the platform for strong productivity and efficient systems in the workplace. Are you having one-on-ones with team members? Are you talking to your supervisor at least once a week about specific tasks? Does your team gather at least once a day or week to make sure everyone is on the same page? 

Three tools: Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your supervisor. Remember that Clear is Kind; Unclear is Unkind. Schedule a one-on-one in your home life as well with roommates, partners, or families.

Space: Environment has a massive impact on productivity. I always ask clients this: Is your space hindering or enhancing your focus? Take a look around and answer for yourself. Is your space facing outward and causing ongoing distractions throughout the day? Is your paper system clogged due to a lack of a file system? Yes, it takes time, but a new system aligned with current operations, projects, and team members will catapult you into a totally different place mentally. 

Three tools: Rearrange your space. Go for it. Do it. Now! It will bring new energy and a different feel. Guaranteed. Go vertical: Flip up your stuff so you can see it and find things. If you have a space that you’re tired of looking at, shove it all into a box, put it in the closet for three months, and if you never need anything in it, put it in the trash. This gives you an instant clean space, fresh start, and clear mind!

I’m not advocating tossing the technology. The point is that without the foundation of these five basics of food, sleep, exercise, communication, and space, the highest levels of productivity and efficiency are impossible. Here’s to a simple, productive, and fresh new year ahead!


Sara Caputo transforms how individuals, teams, and small businesses navigate workflow and increase workplace efficiency. Her work has been featured in Working Women, Success, and Forbes, as well as other national and regional publications. She can be reached at sara@saracaputoconsulting.com.


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