It’s not back to basics, but sticking with the basics

Sara Caputo — №23 with Mike St. Pierre

All-star baseball players routinely practice fundamentals. Million-dollar Club salespeople make daily cold calls. And, so it goes with lifestyle productivity. The five basics of food, sleep, exercise, communication, and space cannot be replaced with the latest app or newest technology. Sorry.

In my years of consulting and coaching with teams and companies in all areas of productivity and workplace and life efficiency, one thing stands out over everything else: these five basics provide the foundation of your life efficiency. Let’s take a closer look.


Proper nutrition is critical to all bodily functions, but it’s most important to top-notch decision making as priorities shift through the day. Yep, I guarantee that come 3 p.m. on a skipped lunch belly that the app you are pulling up to access your calendar is going to look fuzzy. And, for the record, what your mother always said about breakfast is right.

Two tools: Plan meals for the week. Pack lunch the night before.


I wrote about this in the last issue of Productive! Magazine and it stands to reason that when we don’t get enough sleep, our work suffers. Health professionals recommend seven to nine hours of sleep each night for adults. Remember, there is a difference between enough sleep for performing optimally and getting by. With chronic sleep deprivation, attention and focus are hijacked, everything gets wonky and decision making becomes impaired.

Two tools: Set a timer to start going to bed earlier. De-clutter your bedside table.


Exercise does a body good. New research shows it doesn’t take much — just 30 minutes of walking/day or 20 pushups and 20 situps can be good enough. Exercise has less to do with motivation and more to do with planning. The more friction there is between you and your plan, the less likely you are to execute it.

Two tools: Plan a month of exercise on your calendar, blocking the time with specifics of exercise. Pack or lay out clothes, shoes, and iPod the night before.


Communication goes both ways. I have seen very clean systems quickly broken down due to a lack of simple communication. Effective communication is the platform for strong productivity and efficient systems in the workplace. Are you having one-on-one’s with team members? Are you talking to your supervisor at least once a week about specific tasks? Does your team gather at least once a day or week to make sure everyone is on the same page?

Two tools: Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your supervisor. Institute a discussion time among co-workers.


Environment has a massive impact on productivity. I always ask clients this: Is your space hindering or enhancing your focus? Take a look around and answer for yourself. Is your space facing outward and causing ongoing distractions throughout the day? Is your paper system clogged due to a lack of a file system? Yes, it takes time, but a new system aligned with current operations, projects and team members will catapult you into a totally different place mentally.

Two tools: Rearrange your space. Go for it. Do it. Now! It will bring new energy and a different feel. Guaranteed. Go vertical. Flip up your stuff so you can see it and find things.

I’m not advocating tossing the technology or abolishing the apps. The point is that without a proper foundation, with the five basics of food, sleep, exercise, communication, and space, the highest levels of productivity and efficiency are impossible. Follow the examples of the highest-achieving professionals and sharpen your basic skills every day.

Photo: Flickr / De Vetpan Archive - CC BY-2.0

Sara caputo

Sara Caputo

Sara is a dynamic productivity coach, consultant, and trainer based in Santa Barbara, California. She has diverse experience in group process facilitation, project management, and team development. She is the founder of Radiant Organizing and author of the e-book The Productivity Puzzle: What’s Your Missing Piece?

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