7 Productivity Tips Every Nonprofit and Grant Writer Should Use

Everybody wants to know how they can get more done throughout their day. Work is such a large part of the time we spend our waking hours. However, when talking about how to optimize one’s day for the best level of output, there’s so much information out there. This can make it hard to figure out which advice to take into account. That’s why it’s almost always best to get started with the basics when it comes to productivity tips.

For this reason, GrantWriterTeam will be sharing 7 productivity tips today that can be useful to both nonprofits and grant writers. All of these tips are backed by science and have been proven to be effective for most people. We hope that they can help you to work more efficiently, increase your productivity, and improve your day-to-day experience!

1. Plan out the day before it starts (or even earlier)  

Often, one of the best productivity tips starts well before your day does. Studies show that writing out a to-do list actually has several benefits that can lead to overall improved productivity. 

Surprisingly, writing out your list of tasks for the next day can actually improve your sleep quality. A 2018 study found that writing out a to-do list the night before can actually decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Participants in the study were instructed to either write about completed tasks throughout the day or to write a to-do list for the following day. Participants who wrote a to-do list fell asleep an average of 9 minutes quicker. Obviously improving sleep quality makes you more productive, because the quality of sleep improves alertness, focus, and quality of work. 

Secondly, writing out a to-do list before the day can increase the odds of getting those tasks done. A study by Wake Forest University professors, Baumeister and Masicampo, found that tasks we have not completed yet tend to distract us. However, making a plan to complete those tasks can free us from that stress, allowing for them to be more easily completed. Just the act of writing down what we want to accomplish can improve our odds. 

*** Extra bonus points if you can rank the items in either level of importance or what will be the easiest to get through. Once we start checking items off our list, our brain gets a boost of dopamine, which can help motivate us through the rest of the list. 

2. Drink water throughout the day 

Out of all the productivity tips we will be talking about today, this item may seem obvious, but it’s pretty crucial. So many of us forget to drink enough water throughout the workday. This can lead to dehydration and headaches and can distract us from focusing on the tasks at hand. There is also evidence that drinking enough water throughout the day can actually make us more productive overall. 

A 2013 study, conducted by the University of East London, found that drinking water throughout the day both eased dehydration and expanded the brain’s gray matter. Drinking water also improved participants’ overall productivity by 14 percent. The reason is that a thirsty person’s brain is busy sending signals to the brain that it needs water. By remaining hydrated and satisfying the brain’s thirst needs, a person can improve thinking and response time, as well as overall functionality. 

So remember to drink water! Keep a reusable water bottle and refill it throughout the day or fill up a few glasses ahead of time. How much water someone needs may vary, but you can use this handy tool to figure it out specific to your body type. 

3. Take regular breaks throughout the day

When you’re busy, taking a break can almost seem futile. There’s so much going on, how can you step away for even a second? But in reality, taking breaks can actually improve both your productivity, your creativity, and even your ability to process and retain information. How often you’ll get the most out of this can vary and opinions are wide. Some evidence points to the idea that taking even a short break every 90 mins (1.5 hours) can improve your productivity overall.

There are other methods that favor techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, which has a person focus on deep work for 25 minutes at a time, prompting a short break afterward. Then after four of these timer-based sessions, the user earns a 20-minute break. There are many different methods used by different people but finding how this can best serve you, might be the answer to helping you work smarter as well as harder. 

Now, for some people taking a break may be more challenging than others. If you’re in a job where you have designated breaks, choosing when to take a full break can be tricky. But there’s good news there too. Even taking a few moments to breathe and getting your eyes away from the computer can help. 

Author’s note: This app can help if you’re looking to take a few deep breaths to clear your mind. 

4. Break down tasks into smaller tasks 

We’ve already talked about the benefits of to-do lists. While listing out your tasks can and does help, what about those bigger projects with lots of steps? That sense of overwhelm that often accompanies those can certainly hamper productivity. However, there’s a solution for this one too.

It turns out that breaking these tasks into smaller steps can actually increase the chance that you succeed in completing them. Part of this has to do with the stress aspect of large projects, but it also has to do with retention and working memory. The human brain is finite in how much information it can hold. Breaking things down can make processing and retention much easier. 

There are several ways you can break down tasks, but here’s something simple. Break down a task into 3-5 different parts. Then estimate how long each smaller part will take and focus on that. For example, if you’re writing an article, here are a couple of smaller parts you might be working on: 

  • Research
  • Constructing headlines and subheadlines 
  • Drafting 
  • Editing for content as well as spelling and grammar 
  • Feedback 

Ensuring you allocate enough time for each task is important, but our next item on this list may help you figure out how long each task actually takes. 

  1. Use Timers 

Just a quick heads up, I’m a bit biased because this is one of my favorite productivity tips so far. Using timers has absolutely changed the way that I work and has granted me insight into how long each task actually takes. 

So let’s talk more about using timers. There are several different methods. Of course, there’s the Pomodoro Technique, which we spoke about earlier. This involves four timers of 25 minutes each. After each one, the user will take a short break; and then after four, there is a subsequent 20-minute break.

You can also set timers for an hour, 90 mins, or however long you think a task will take you, and see if that helps you to better understand how much time you’re working vs getting distracted. 

Here are several ways that timers can increase your level of productivity: 

  • Improving discipline 
  • Minimizing multitasking or jumping from task to task 
  • Developing and building momentum around the work you’re doing 
  • Ensuring commitment and focus to the tasks at hand. 

Whether you choose to use a Pomodoro Timer or just the timer app on your phone, knowing how long tasks take and having expectations of finishing within that time, can help you get more of your work done and on schedule too! 

  1. Go outside for a few mins

The ability to go outside may depend on where you work and the current forecast, but it certainly can have an impact on your workday. Actually, going outside could have an impact on your productivity levels, which is pretty remarkable. 

A study conducted on office workers found that spending 29 minutes outside increased their productivity levels by a startling 45%. And 63% of those same office workers, reported they felt more like themselves after spending that time outdoors during the day.

Eat your lunch outdoors, take a break outside, or even take some work and go outside if you can and breathe in the fresh air. It’ll improve your day and your productivity levels.  

  1. Minimize distractions

Now for number 7 of our productivity tips. This may be the one that many people find difficult. Distractions are all around us pretty much all of the time. Between our phones, social media, our co-workers, and so many other interesting distractions that pop up throughout the day, it can be hard to focus. 

However, these distractions can often be catastrophic to our productivity levels and can often make tasks take longer, causing a decrease in quality. If you’re too distracted, it’s much harder to focus on what’s in front of you. Now, actually, a lot of the previous things on this list can help with minimizing distractions. But we’ll talk about a few more ways to help. 

  • Know what distracts you and have a solution ahead of time. This can mean putting your phone on the other side of the room when you complete a task or having a rule not to check Twitter all day. Just make sure you’re setting yourself up for success here. Even setting your phone to Do Not Disturb except for emergency calls can be helpful. 
  • Have work time, and breaks, check out our list item about that. 
  • Make specific times throughout the day where you’ll check your phone, email, or other communication forms for work-related messages. And commit to that. 

That’s our full list of productivity tips. We hope this will help to improve your workday and your life! Do you have a favorite from this list or a tip to share with our team? Let us know in the comments below!