BR#23: My Checklist for a Productive Day

We are as productive as our environment enables us to be.

As a long-time freelancer obsessed with productivity, the following have been critical must-haves of mine for years:

  • a good cup of coffee to kick off the day (or my particularly-strong homemade cold brew during warmer days);

  • a quiet room, free of distractions;

  • a fast PC, preferably with a big screen (or two) so that I can look at two windows at once;

  • fast internet connection;

  • pre-scheduled calendar;

  • a list of priorities for the day (if I didn’t make one the day before, it’s the first thing I’ll prepare when I start my day);

  • a clear cut-off point past which I stop reading my emails (80% of the time).

That last point may sound a little different than the rest, but here’s why it’s important to me:

Because in my early years of freelancing, I’ve learned that if I don’t set and respect my own limits, there won’t be any limits to speak of.

That’s a recipe that always, without exception, leads to burnout.

(As I write this, I’m picturing my old and unsustainable habits of working 10-to-14-hour days for weeks in a row)

I’ve spent the first half of my 10-year freelancing career working largely with US-based clients, and the second half working largely with European-based clients and collaborators.

I’ve really grown to appreciate the European respect for boundaries and time off, and I really don’t believe that I’ve lost any amount of productivity along the way. As with most things in life, learning to find a balance will almost always get you further than picking one extreme or another.


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