Follow this master list and improve your time management skills.

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After a year of remote working in quarantine, being productive has been more challenging than ever. Sure, we have every intention to seize the day and start our morning with a fresh cup of coffee—then fast forward and we're zombie-eyed scrolling through Instagram, the day is half gone, and our to-do list is still unchecked. Nobody is one hundred percent productive one hundred percent of the time, so remember to cut yourself some slack. It's easy to feel overwhelmed.

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Credit: MoMo Productions / Getty Images

To help you feel more productive than ever before, we asked two very busy and productive female CEOs, who just so happen to be highly skilled in time management, to share their pro tips. Lindsay Lingle, founder and CEO of Holly & Tanager, and Katya Slepak, founder and CEO of Malaya Organics, weighed in on the top habits of extremely productive people. Go through this checklist, then ask yourself how many of these are you already doing and which ones you can improve on.

Wake up before "the house" wakes up.

They say the early bird gets the worm, and that's because all the other birds aren't awake yet. "I wake up about one to two hours before everyone in my household, so that I can meditate, work out, shower, and get dressed without any distractions," says Slepak. She also advises waking up at the same time every day, Monday through Friday. "This is very challenging for me," she admits. "But it's truly the best way to have time to myself and get a full day of work in."

Don't let your inbox be your to-do list.

Letting email dictate your day can be the ultimate productivity crusher. Instead of stopping in your tracks as each email rolls in, devote a chunk of time to going through your inbox. "Don't let your inbox become your to-do list," warns Lingle. "I try and set 'email hours' each day to respond over a certain period of time. And then once I reach that time limit, I close my email so I can focus on other tasks."

Streamline your to-do list.

It's no surprise that people who keep a daily to-do list are more productive than those who don't. But the medium you use is as important as the list itself. "Whether you prefer a physical notebook or the Notes app, figure out what works best for you and stick with it," says Lingle. "I use my iPad so that my notes are digital and I always have them." What you want to avoid is scattering your to-do list all over the place, across mediums. Decide what works best for you—digital or paper—and keep your list in one place.

Don't start your day with dessert.

This isn't literal, of course. The occasional cake for breakfast never hurt anyone. But those with the strongest time management skills begin their day with the task they're looking forward to the least and then put the easier, more desirable tasks (or "dessert") towards the end of their day. If you save the harder tasks for the end of the day when you're burnt out, it will make them all the more difficult.

Related: How to Be More Productive in the Morning

Don't multitask.

We tend to associate productivity with multitasking, but it's actually the opposite. If we focus intently on one thing we're more likely to get it done faster than juggling multiple tasks. "I force myself to be completely present at whatever the task at hand is," says Slepak. "Even if it's just for 15 minutes at a time." Toggling between tasks can drain our brain power faster than just focusing on one thing.

Prioritize movement.

It's no secret that exercise improves brain functionality. Studies show that incorporating exercise into the workday improved time management skills by 72 percent as opposed to days where the participants did not exercise at all. "Starting my day with a workout sets me up to focus better," says Lingle. But getting in a full workout every morning isn't always realistic. Even if you can't get to the gym, just walk around your house throughout the day. "I try to get up and walk around for about 10 minutes for every two to three hours of work," says Lingle.

Schedule brain breaks.

It may seem like a given, but it's worth repeating: breaks are essential to productivity. When we have a lot on our plate, it's easy to power through instead of carving out time to relax. "The more I create pockets of time for relaxation, inner work, and creating a state of peacefulness, the more my life starts to reflect those concepts," says Slepak. Set a "brain break" alarm on your phone where you allow yourself to unplug for at least fifteen minutes at a time.

Stick to a nutrient-rich diet.

"What I eat highly impacts my productivity," says Slepak. "I feel my best when I focus on a nutrient-dense, low-carb, plant-based (as much as possible) diet. I'm mindful of how much sugar, caffeine, alcohol, or processed foods I consume. And making sure I take all my supplements daily is also super important." Be sure to make an appointment with your general physician first to discuss what vitamins you may be lacking and what supplements are best for you.


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