By Armela Escalona 

When we fail to resist behaviors, they become habits. Habits can be good or bad, chronic or temporary. In many cases, they are the cause of decline in our productivity. When we develop destructive behaviors, they make us do unnecessary things that waste precious time. We lose important hours to do useful work.

However, it is important to note that productivity fluctuates. Like levels of happiness, it is often affected by our mood and the environment. A newly hired employee may be productive on the first few weeks on the job; however, when comfort sets in, he will find it hard to stay productive every day.

What can business owners do to prevent this? How can they themselves become productive in a short time? How can we find a better way to get more done without sacrificing quality and meet expectations?

Impossible as it may seem, there are many ways to counter inefficiency. The following are small changes you can make that will help you enhance productivity and get the most out of your day.

1. Wake Up Early

No one likes to wake up at 5AM – but if you want to be successful like Tim Armstrong (AOL) and Richard Branson (Virgin Group), maybe you should rethink your wake up routine. Simply waking up an hour early everyday can do wonders for your productivity. Think about it: you can enjoy your breakfast and even have time to exercise. People who wake up early tend to get more done because they don’t need to rush to work. Use that extra hour to answer emails, read the news, or simply clear your mind.

2. Go for Protein

You’ve heard countless times how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But don’t just reach for bacon or bagel – make your first meal of the day count. Energize yourself with protein-rich healthy food that should keep you full until lunch. Not only that, it should help you burn off more calories as well. Try oats with fruit, omelets with tomato, or cottage cheese parfait!

3. First-In-First-Out

This is an old inventory trick that means the first goods should be the first ones to be sold. Business owners can apply the First-In-First-Out rule when answering emails to enhance productivity and avoid the hassle of leaving important queries unanswered. Simply sort mail from the oldest to the newest and you’ll see how much better this routine work can be.

4. Just Smile

Are you happy when you accomplish a goal? Do you take pleasure in your job? So all throughout the day – even thing seem pretty rocky – don’t forget to flash a smile. Research suggests that even faking it can help temporarily elevate your mood and reduce stress. See an employee struggling? Why not go to him and give him a smile? Everyone likes a pat on the back every once in a while. Unsatisfied customer? Assure them that you’re to help.

5. Keep an Eye for Time

When you love what you do, sometimes, you get carried away and can work until the wee hours of the morning. While that’s great and all, don’t forget that we all have only 24 hours in a day. That doesn’t look like a lot for many people, but most especially for business owners. Always be mindful of the time. If you’d be too busy to glance at your watch, apps installed on your phone (or laptop) will help signal when it’s time to move to the next task.

6. Make Use of Your Commute

Does it usually take you 15 minutes or more before you reach the office? You can use this time to plan for activities during the day. Planning fosters productivity. When we set a deadline for each task, we break our hours better and manage our time well. AOL CEO Tim Armstrong likes to use his one-hour commute to read, tinker with AOL products, and answer emails.

7. Clear Your Desk – If You Must

Making cleanliness a main concern will help clear your mind with regards to work. However, you should also understand where to draw the fine line between a clean, organized desk and a creative, messy workplace. According to professor of management at the College of Business at Oral Roberts University, David Burkus, cleaning your work desk should keep you centered on your goal and help you make better decisions. However, a messier desk has been shown to foster creativity and groundbreaking insight.

8. Create a Bedtime Routine

Most successful people create a routine (like writing a to-do list) before going to bed. One good example is American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, who likes to jot down at least three things he wants to accomplish the next day. Creating a bedtime routine is considered a non-negotiable for many productive individuals because they know how it impacts their energy and mood. Aside from writing to-do lists, successful people also enjoy nighttime reading, evening strolls, and simply visualizing.

Just because you’re used to doing things one way doesn’t mean you can’t change them anymore. A bad habit can always be renewed with discipline and personal accountability. When we understand how we work and how much time and effort we put into it, we can make small alterations to be more productive individuals.

It’s just a matter of mind over matter.