15 ways to make your 9-to-5 a 10


I like to think of myself as being a step past the normal employee grind, but I still get up most days and schlep to my client’s office. Sure, I take off when I feel like it and work moderately flexible hours, but I do the lunchpail shuffle. I do know that there are changes that I’ve made over the past couple of years that have made a big difference in my daily life, and my Life, capital L. These changes make the day better and make me more productive – and, invevitably, have made me a little bit richer, too. They didn’t cost anything and didn’t take any great effort. Give them a shot:

  1. Get up early. If you are an early riser, the early hours of the day are probably your most productive. If you are not an early riser, you should become one. If you wake up 30 minutes before tumbling out the door you will be less likely to exercise, eat well, prepare a lunch or simply become alert before leaving. Set your alarm clock back 5 minutes before you go to sleep tonight, and do that every night for the next month. You will be amazed how much productive time this will add to your day.
  2. Stop smoking. I am not sure this needs much explanation, but if you are a smoker you are wasting money with that morning smoke-and-joe. I won’t even touch on the health implications; you’re wasting time and money, all for the sake of a stimulant you don’t need.
  3. Stop eating junk food. Eat protein the morning. Forget low-fat/low-carb/vegetarian/slow food etc.; the simple fact is that you will be perkier in the morning if you eat protein rather than carbs. Eating protein in the morning keeps you energized longer, makes you more productive and probably will make you eat less for lunch, too. Eat eggs for breakfast, or egg whites. No bagels, young Jedi.
  4. Exercise. Exercising gives you more energy, makes you happier, increases your stamina and if done correctly even makes you more creative. Running is a great way to brainstorm; leave the iPod at home.
  5. Groom. Spend some money on hair care products or hair cuts or razors or whatever you use to groom. Some people will tell you spending money on that type of stuff is not frugal. True, it is not; but you will not get ahead in this world if you don’t keep a presentable appearance. Think even rock stars roll out of bed looking appropriately rumpled?
  6. Hygiene. Like #2, this one explains itself. Nobody likes to be around people who smell. Wipe when wiping is needed. Spend a little extra on high-quality deodorants.
  7. Stand up straight. Confidence projects itself through your posture. If you slump and slouch and avoid eye contact throughout the day, you not only project an insecure, pathetic appearance to others, you feed your own brain an unhealthy diet of intimidated glances at your shoes. I make this mistake myself, sometimes, but try it. When walking in public, keep your shoulders thrown back, your back straight and your chin in the air. Walk like you own the sidewalk, and soon you will.
  8. Smile. As in #7, project happiness and you’ll make people happy around you. There is nothing quite as startling as a smile from a stranger these days. Don’t be creepy about it, but stop scowling. Put a smile in your eyes if not on your face, and you’ll see a change in people around you.
  9. Read/listen. If you commute to work – and chances are you do – make sure you make good use of that time. I know listening to the wacky Morning Zoo on X-Rock 103.6 may be the highlight of your day, but try to make use of that time. If you commute 40 minutes each way to work (the average US commute time) you spend approximately 9,800 minutes (163 hours commuting) each year. I spend almost 720 hours commuting per year! You can read a lot of books if you take public transportation, or listen to a lot of audio books on any subject (if you drive or take public transportation). Don’t give that time over to phone pranks and Rhianna.
  10. Eat lunch with humans. I know the frugal approach is to avoid the office lunch, or the “wasted time” with colleagues in the cafeteria – but even if you have to bring lunch for everyone once in a while to tempt them to stay in the company cafeteria, do it. Don’t spend lunch reading a book or gobbling a PBnJ at your desk. Get up and take a break for a few seconds!
  11. Take breaks. I have a terrible habit of “getting in the zone” at work and sitting without moving for hours, IMing and emailing and preparing documents. It’s a bad idea. Stand up once every 10 minutes. Yes, 10 minutes. Stand up when you take a phone call. Get a small cup for your water so you have to walk back and forth to the water cooler constantly. Breath. You are not chained to your desk.
  12. Leave early. Trust me. If you are working for an employer and complete what is expected of you for that day. Do not chit chat. Do not check your emails one last time – my guess is that unless the corporate servers are impounded by the FBI, your emails will be there tomorrow. “Forget” your Blackberry on your office desk as you leave for the day. Leave 5 minutes before you normally do each day. Nobody will fire you, I promise. Think anybody at Bear Stearns is keeping their job because they turned out the lights every night? No. Take that time in the evening for YOU, and building YOUR wealth.
  13. Do errands on the way home. Don’t wait until the weekend to run by the drugstore for shampoo (although you probably should be buying it from amazon or drugstore unless you’re clipping coupons). Get it on the way home. You’re already out. Save your free days for life – or better yet, for building wealth – not errands.
  14. Take off your shoes, wash your hands and shower when you get home. If you are like me and ride the New York subways, you probably have 8,000 different emissions and fluids and various unpleasant emanations on your hands and the bottom of your shoes when you get home. Take them off at the door, then go shower. You reduce the chance of spreading illness throughout the house by staying clean.
  15. Go to sleep early. Unless you have a thriving 24 hour business that requires your input at 1 am, chances are good that there is nothing “live” requiring your attention at that time. Go to sleep and get up earlier – you are more productive early in the morning than you are late at night. Let your evenings be for your family and for more positive productive activity – thinking, writing, making phone calls and reading.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Saveena (AKA LHDugger)