Elle & Company

12 Things I Can't Work Without: Must-Have Self-Care Tools for Your Most Productive Workday Ever

Robyn DownsLauren Hooker10 Comments

Today I’m excited to share my 12 self-care essentials to help you have your most productive workday ever. These are the tools you can use to stay focused, motivated, creative and efficient. They are essential to productivity and can easily be incorporated into your own workflow. 

When your day gets busy and to-dos start to pile up it’s easy to immediately put yourself and your own needs at the bottom of the list. But deprioritizing yourself is a oneway ticket to burnout and overwhelm. Taking a few moments each day to invest in your own self-care will help you stay motivated, be more creative, and sustain your productivity over the long term. Here are my must-have tools to get you there.

12 Must-Have Self-Care Tools For Your Most Productive Workday Ever - The Elle & Company Collaborative


1  |  5 minutes of movement

It might seem like a good idea to roll out of bed and jump directly into emails and to-do lists, but taking a few minutes to move your body will get your blood flowing and alert your senses so you can better take on your day.

Five minutes is all it takes: think a short yoga flow, lite stretching, or some squats and lunges. You even do your 5 minutes in your pjs!

You’ll be surprised by how a few minutes can set your mood for the entire day.

2  |  The morning meal

I know, I know, you’ve heard this one before. It’s worth repeating, though, because it’s so darn important. While it may be tempting to skip breakfast to save time, taking 5-10 minutes to nourish your body with whole foods will pay off with more focused attention throughout the morning.

Don’t be tempted by sugary cereal, either, which will only lead to a blood sugar crash. Instead, go for options that provide brain boosting energy from protein and healthy fats.

Need some healthy breakfast ideas? Check out my recent Collaborative post: Quick and Healthy Meals for Busy Entrepreneurs

12 Must-Have Self-Care Tools For Your Most Productive Workday Ever - The Elle & Company Collaborative

3| Bottomless mug of tea

I love my morning cup of coffee to kick off the morning, but I find that tea is gentler on my system and helps me avoid feeling jittery and caffeine-crashing later in the day.

Even if you can’t give up your first morning cup, consider switching to tea instead of heading back for a second (or third) cup of coffee. It may take awhile to adjust, but you’ll soon feel calmer, more focused, and will sleep better at night.

4  |  Self-care workflow

Setting a workflow for your day is a great way to increase productivity.

When creating your workflow don’t forget to schedule in time for self-care. Scheduling it into your regular routine will help you make time for healthy eating and movement, and writing it down will help you resist the urge to skip it when your day gets busy.


5  |  Protein and veggie packed lunch

Even though I know it’s tempting to work right through lunch in order to power through a workday, skipping meals can result in fatigue and brain fog later in the day.

Take a few minutes midday to eat a sustaining lunch. Go for an option that contains some protein, veggies and healthy fats.

You can find inspiration in this Collaborative post and easy recipe ideas on Real Food Whole Life.

12 Must-Have Self-Care Tools For Your Most Productive Workday Ever - The Elle & Company Collaborative

6 | Water, water, water

Your brain and your body need water to function properly. It’s just that simple.

Here’s an easy trick to help you stay hydrated throughout the day: Place a large (16-oz) glass or bottle of water at your bedside before you go to bed, then drink it upon rising. After breakfast, place a second large glass at your workstation, then make sure you drink it before lunch. After lunch, place a third large glass at your workstation and drink it before dinner. Finally, drink a fourth glass after dinner.

Repeat daily and you’ll feel better and more focused throughout the week.

7  |  Fitness tracker

Research shows that tracking your fitness goals leads to increased physical activity all day. Something as simple as tracking steps can have a huge impact on the total number of steps you take.

If you work from home you may be shocked (and disturbed) by how few steps you’re getting in a day. I love my fitness band because it reminds me that I’ve been sitting at my desk for too long and that it’s time to get up and move.

Set a daily goal for yourself and do what you can to meet it each day. If you want to more on fitness tracking, you can read my post on fitness tracking here.

8  |  10-minute workout break

I’ve found the best way to squeeze a little extra movement into my day is by taking one or two 10-minute workout breaks.

Simply stand up from your desk, walk around the house, do some push ups or tricep dips, anything to get your heart rate up, boost your metabolism, and move your blood back to your brain. 

9  |  Earbuds and podcasts

Once I realized how few steps I was getting in a day by working from home I set a goal of 10,000 steps each day.

The only way I can hit that goal on most days is by going for a walk. In the summer I take my walk after dinner and putting my daughter to bed. In winter I set aside time in the middle of the day, knowing I’ll need to do extra work in the evening to make up the time.

Listening to podcasts has been a game changer for me when it comes to walking. By listening to business-focused podcasts I learn something new to benefit my blog and business, plus listening to the content helps the walk to fly by.

Afternoon and Evening

10  |  Power snack

I like to have a small power snack in the afternoon to keep my blood sugar stable through to dinner. Keeping it quick and simple allows me to grab something and continue with my workflow.

Some of my favorite snacks are an apple with almond butter, a hard boiled egg and some carrot sticks, or hummus with veggies.

12 Must-Have Self-Care Tools For Your Most Productive Workday Ever - The Elle & Company Collaborative

11  |  Cooking dinner

Going out or grabbing takeout can be a fun way to end the day, but cooking at home is a great way to signal the end of the workday.

Put your computer and phone away, turn on some relaxing music, pour yourself a glass of wine or a cup of tea, and spend 20-30 minutes preparing dinner. Then try to sit down at an actual table and enjoy your meal (no phones allowed!). It doesn’t have to be fancy or time consuming.

A simple, healthy dinner can be delicious and the perfect way to decompress after a long day. You can find a ton of quick, healthy dinner ideas on Real Food Whole Life.

12  |  Bedtime ritual

After dinner and putting my daughter to bed I often jump back on the computer for a few more hours of work.

I don’t think working at night is necessarily a bad thing, as long as you can unplug and get away from screentime for at least an hour before bedtime. I have a 9-9:30 pm cutoff for the phone and laptop. After that I read, take a shower, or catch up on a favorite show.

Setting up a bedtime ritual will help you wind down and get a better night sleep so you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to take on another day.

Thanks for letting me share these self-care essentials for productivity with you. If you want more healthy eating and living tips, along with quick and easy recipes, come visit me on Real Food Whole Life or come say on social media. I love connecting with you! 

What are your self-care essentials for productivity? Share them with the Collaborative community!

About the Author

Robyn Conley Downs is a busy entrepreneur, mama, and passionate about making healthy living easier. She runs Real Food Whole Life, a website designed to inspire and simplify healthy eating and living. Through the website she shares quick and healthy recipes, healthy tips and tricks, weekly meal plans, fitness inspiration, and help with planning healthy celebrations. You can follow along with Robyn on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.