In my mind, I’m the kind of woman who makes accomplishing everything on their to-do list while still making time for self-care look easy. But in reality, long lists seriously stress me out and tend to send me into a panic, and I lose my mind if I go too long without downtime. Apparently, I have yet to master the whole “work smarter not harder” mentality.
That said, although we all operate differently, I now know that there are universal productivity habits all successful women practice—a discovery I made after interviewing three women who seamlessly juggle work and wellness recently.
If you’re looking to become the kind of woman who maximizes their life in the most productive way possible, you’ve come to the right place. With these tips, you can balance your workload and day-to-day tasks and still make time for yourself with ease. Keep on reading to learn everything you need to know about the productivity habits successful women practice.
1. They know their peak hours
This may come as a shock, but not all successful women are early risers. In fact, they use their own chronotype—AKA their biological body clock that influences activity levels and alertness—to schedule their day accordingly. Longmore explained that this stops them from jumping from task to task and expending extra brain power and energy that could be channeled into the task at-hand.
Successful women don’t fight their internal circadian rhythm because they know it’s a losing battle. So, a night owl will use the morning to gently ease into the day with mundane tasks, like answering emails and taking meetings, and get their best work done in the late afternoon and early evening. And larks and third birds are naturally laser-focused in the morning and mid-morning and will complete difficult, analytical tasks during this time.
2. They elevate their to-do lists
By now, you probably know that having a to-do list can help streamline your work, priorities, and tasks. But successful women take their lists a step further by elevating them. James told me they’ll keep multiple to-do lists and write out separate ones for personal and work tasks. On the work list, they’ll create two columns—one for bigger, more generalized projects, and one for the details and specific requirements of those bigger projects. Having these columns helps them stay on track and not forget anything.
Furthermore, James also said that successful women organize their to-do lists in order of importance—what must be done first and what can wait. They’ll look at deadlines to prioritize and determine order of importance and urgency; urgent tasks are time-sensitive and have immediate consequences if they’re not completed in time. Urgent and important tasks will go at the top of the list and will then be followed by important and non-urgent tasks, urgent and unimportant tasks, and lastly, non-urgent and unimportant tasks.
3. They focus on the task at-hand
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when your to-do list is a mile long, but successful women combat this by focusing on the task at-hand. According to Bacine, they won’t get caught up in the bigger picture and how much they need to get done. Instead, they’ll direct their attention towards urgent tasks and priorities, and complete those one at a time in order of importance. For them, it’s more about what they check off, not how much they check off, and this mindset helps them work better and faster and leaves them feeling more fulfilled at the end of their workday.
4. They rely on time-blocking
Successful women appear to have more time in the day than the rest of us earthlings, but the truth is, they’ve simply found ways to be more efficient. They know that bouncing between different tasks will only drain them and make them less productive, so they’ll condense and consolidate as needed.
“I block off my time so that I have three days in one,” Longmore told me. This means taking time slots (like 6:00-9:00, then 9:00-12:00, and 1:00-5:00) and filling them with similar tasks in order to get more done. “I am a multitasker who wants to ‘do all of the things’ without having all of the time, so I combine things that I want or need to do that make sense to pair together.”
5. They plan ahead
Successful women also maximize productivity by planning ahead. Knowing exactly what they have to do when they wake up in the morning makes their life less stressful and saves them precious time and brain power—they don’t have to think about what needs to get done and when. So, they’ll make a schedule ahead of time that fits in urgent personal and work tasks, leisurely tasks, and self-care. “Simple things like planning your meals out for the week, picking out clothes the night before, or making a to-do list when you finish work for the day can all help you be more productive as well,” James told me.
6. They prioritize work-life balance
There’s a common misconception that being a workaholic is the only way to be successful in life—but women who are thriving are (thankfully) rewriting that narrative. Successful women know that working around-the-clock on little-to-no sleep is simply a recipe for disaster and burnout, which is why they prioritize a healthy work-life balance. “If you’re tired, take a break,” Bacine said to me. “Listen to your body. You’re not a machine, so don’t treat yourself like one.”
When it comes down to it, women who are flourishing give themselves permission to disconnect from their work. And granting themselves much-needed downtime is ultimately key to success; they start each workday feeling refreshed, stronger, and more motivated than the day before.
7. They have a special focus tool
Contrary to popular opinion, successful women are not exempt from feeling the effects of a midday or mid-week slump. But they fight back by keeping a special focus tool in their arsenal. Whether it’s going on a quick power walk, throwing on some background music, doing some deep breathing, or drinking more water, Bacine, Longmore, and James turn to their tool whenever they’re in dire need of an energy boost.
At the end of the day, successful women are so productive because they focus on working to their fullest potential. They know when their peak hours are and how they operate, when to take a step back, and how to prioritize accordingly. Turn to these principles for guidance, and soon enough, you’ll be checking off items, accomplishing tasks, and reaching goals like the successful woman you are.