Everyone aspires for productivity. It appears, however, that many are complaining about not having enough hours in a day to get things done. You wake up with a brilliant plan to conquer the day’s tasks, but hours later, you’re left wondering, “Where did all the time go?”

As a freelancer who constantly has to battle with the lure of procrastination, truly it is important to work smarter. Here are some ideas that can help you manage your time and energy. The best part is that these ideas won’t consume a big chunk of your schedule.

Follow the “Rule of 3” instead of a lengthy “Must Do” list

While a to-do list seems like a systematic way of getting things done, they can also leave you overwhelmed. One glimpse of a seemingly endless list can demotivate you and even lead to procrastination! One productivity tactic is at the beginning of each day, determine just three things that you have to accomplish. Prioritize what’s significant from what isn’t. Since there’s no pressure from a lengthy task list, the Rule of 3 allows you to work deliberately – one of the secrets of highly productive individuals.

Take control of how you start the day

A fit woman practicing yoga in Oregon.

What you do upon waking up sets the mood of the whole day. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple breakfast or a quick stretching session. Even drinking more water is a proven way to increase productivity. Having a routine – whether it’s watching the morning news or brewing a cup of coffee  – likewise signals the brain that it’s time to work. When you start the day with a winning mindset, you’ll find that it’s easier to focus.

Incorporate a meaningful “background noise”

A University of Illinois study came to a conclusion that moderate noise could actually trigger the brain to think more creatively. Apart from well-curated Spotify playlists, some resources which you can consider for background sounds that do wonders are:

Noisli: This app offers 16 different icons/sounds such as pouring rain, rustling leaves, and chirping birds which you can mix and match. You can also choose from the ready-made soundtrack categories, “Productivity” and “Relax.”

Rainy Mood: As its name suggests, Rainy Mood plays the calming sounds of rain. One unique feature of the site is that it has an artist suggestion each day. You can click the artist’s name and a video will then play. If you don’t find lyrics distracting, you will enjoy this feature.

Ambient Mixer: This has the most extensive list of background noise from Hogwarts Library’s chatter to Winterfell’s night noise.

Track where your precious hours are actually going

Awareness of where you’re spending your time is an efficient productivity booster. When you track your time, you get to pinpoint which digital habit you should avoid. Checking that cute puppy video might seem harmless, but before you know it, you’ve already spent an hour or so watching clips of the same nature. There is an abundance of time tracking tools, but the best ones are those that generate detailed reports.

Keep in mind that increasing your productivity is a continuous journey. Soon you’ll be able to build your own system of managing your time. As long as you’re open to trying new things, surely productivity doesn’t have to be elusive.

By Rob Rawson:

Rob Rawson is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.