Finishing the day without checking off everything on your to-do list can be frustrating. People of all ages are continuously searching for ways to increase productivity in both their professional and personal lives. Fortunately, with some discipline, planning and practice, you can tackle the many tasks on your to-do list in a timely fashion. Try incorporating these 5 simple steps in your daily routine to improve your productivity skills:

  1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking seems like a great way to tackle several tasks at once – such as checking your email first thing in the morning while making breakfast. Unfortunately, the human brain isn’t wired to multitask. Research shows that multitasking may reduce productivity by up to 40%. No matter how simple the tasks may be, toggling between them limits focus and can increase mental fatigue. Restrict yourself to focus on one task at a time to actually complete each one faster.

2. Take Regular Breaks

Don’t be fooled by working extensive hours: you never work as well when burned out. Studies show that taking regular breaks restores motivation and fuels creativity. Consider a walk around the office, a trip to get coffee or a small dose of your favorite hobby. Online gaming, for example, can be used as stress relief throughout the workday. In a recent survey, 54 percent of participants admit to playing online games at work. Fortunately, games are engaging and can provide a virtual confidence boost to foster productivity in other areas. No matter the activity, a break from the task at hand can help maximize your efficiency as you return to work.

3. Use the “Two Minute Rule”

In his bestselling book Getting Things Done, author David Allen outlines his rule to increase productivity. The Two Minute Rule states, “if it takes less than two minutes, do it now.” You likely have impending tasks that can easily be checked off your list in two minutes. For example, taking out the garbage or sending a simple email. The elimination of basic tasks can utilize small windows of time and avoid becoming overwhelmed with a multitude of tasks later on. Besides–checking off one more to-do is satisfying–no matter how quick or simple it may be.

4. Create a Plan

Whether you create a detailed schedule at the start of the week or a basic to-do list each morning, planning can have great benefits on productivity. Keep your lists realistic: cramming in too many tasks can make you feel disoriented and overwhelmed. For more tips on mastering your to-do list, consider bullet journaling.

While a general task list is beneficial, a daily schedule may have a greater effect on productivity. If you opt for a detailed schedule, consider planning your biggest tasks first while you are most alert. As Brian Tracy (inspired by Mark Twain) says, “Eat the Frog.” The frog is the most crucial task on your list and one you may be tempted to procrastinate. Read more about Tracy’s prioritizing technique here.

5. Make Health a Priority

Despite the hustle and bustle of daily life, it is crucial to maintain a healthy mind and body. Research shows that a balanced diet and regular exercise are vital for productivity. Additionally, getting enough high quality sleep ensures that you will be rested to make the most of your day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep can lower work efficiency and cause increased errors. In contrast, being well-rested boosts moods, increases creativity and reduces stress. Establishing a daily routine to manage your health provides great benefits overall, including greater productivity throughout your day.

Take Intentional Steps to Improve Productivity

Despite taking the necessary steps to improve productivity, not every day will be perfect. If you have a setback, simply refocus your goals and implement these steps. You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish by intentionally planning and practicing these proven disciplines.