5 tips for optimizing your crazy workday, from a productivity expert

Productivity expert Julie Morgenstern
Photo courtesy of Bessie Adler

Ever leave working feeling burned out and defeated by your to-do list? You're certainly not alone.

According to a survey by market research company Statista, 26 percent of U.S. adults who experience symptoms of stress and burnout feel they are still achieving less than they should.

Productivity expert Julie Morgenstern has helped employees at places like Amazon and The Oprah Winfrey Show maximize their workdays. She says your approach to prioritizing and completing daily tasks can have a huge impact on how you get things done — and how you feel at the end of the day.

Morgenstern shares with CNBC Make It her top five tips for hacking your crazy work schedule in order to be more productive.

1. Use a traditional alarm clock

Research shows that 71 percent of Americans over the age of 18 sleep with or next to their mobile phone. Rather than continuing this habit, Morgenstern advises anyone looking to be more productive to ditch their smartphone and use a traditional alarm clock as their wake up call.

Ridding your phone from the bedroom can lessen the chance that you'll make checking emails your first priority when you wake up. Instead, she says your priority should be to create an enriching morning routine that does not immediately begin with work.

Successful leaders like Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and Mark Zuckerberg have all emphasized strict morning routines that includes exercising before they start the workday.

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2. Don't make email your top priority

Checking emails at the top of the day may be a habit, but Morgenstern says it can negatively impact how you tackle the rest of your tasks. Instead, she says you should spend the first hour of your morning completing the assignment that will require the most brainpower.

She says you should ask yourself, "If I can get one thing done that can make me the most accomplished and secure in my job, what will it be?"

To heighten your productivity, she recommends determining what that task will be the night before, so that you start your day in complete control.

"You are trying to have a rich and varied set of work that you do in one day rather than just reacting," says Morgenstern. "And when you check your emails you are just reacting."

She adds that you want to "organize your day and organize your approach to your day in a way that fuels your energy and brainpower, rather than stripping it."

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3. Address email in batches

Rather than going back and forth between email and assignments, Morgenstern says you should block out periods on your calendar to devote your attention solely to your inbox.

"You want to break the habit of doing periodic email checking," she says. "When you end up doing this all day, the other work that requires focus ends up coming home with you because you are exhausted from emails."

Instead, she says you should mark your calendar with 30 to 40 minute time slots for when you will check your inbox.

"The one technique that I would say is life and productivity changing is your approach to emails," adds Morgenstern. "You do that and your productivity will change so significantly that it will take your breath away."

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4. Be sure to eat

This may sound simple, but the demands of the workday can easily lead to you skipping both breakfast and lunch.

"I really believe this is just as much a part of time management as emails," says Morgenstern.

Nourishing your body throughout the day is key to maintaining energy and focus, so it doesn't hurt to add an alarm to your calendar that reminds you of lunchtime.

"Plan out your day so that you don't go so long without food that you spend two hours looking at one paragraph because you forgot to eat and fuel up," she says.

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5. Plan three days ahead

Planning ahead is essential to owning your workweek, which is why Morgenstern says everyone should end their day by using a technique she calls "tomorrow plus two."

Before heading home, take time to sit and cross off the tasks you completed and the tasks that still need to be done. Prioritize those tasks by how important they are and then plan out when they will get done over the next few days.

"The reason I say 'tomorrow plus two' is because when you come in the next morning you want to just execute rather than still be deciding what you are going to do," she says. "If things don't go as planned tomorrow, then what's my overflow plan for the following days?"

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