When I sat down to write this article, the first thing I did was shut my laptop, turn off my phone, and walk outside. Before I shared my favorite 14 tips on how to be more productive and successful, I needed to really think about what works for me. I’ve read dozens of books and listened to endless podcasts on how to be productive. What I’ve learned is that everyone has their own productivity tips and tricks, but some are more powerful than others. Struggling with time management and productivity seems to be a universal trait, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a professional writer, CEO, grandmother, choir singer, or stay at home mom…there is always room to improve productivity skills. So, why not use this next year as a way to practice staying focused? This way you can start checking off everything on your to-do list with ease.
What Causes A Lack Of Productivity?
Being productive boils down to getting more done in less time. If you are maximizing your time with productivity tips, you’ll accomplish more in a month than someone can in a year—seriously, that’s how important productivity is.
On your search for how to be productive, you’ll likely find blogs, books, and podcasts with information on how to be more productive. Although most of the information seems like common sense, there’s a reason most of us struggle with productivity. We’re surrounded by distractions on our phones and honestly, it’s harder than ever to stay focused.
Leaks in productivity can come from anywhere, but here are a few common productivity pitfalls that we can fall into.
Cause 1: A cluttered, disorganized space
I have a friend who is amazing at getting things on her to-do list done. Seriously, it’s like she’s a professional task completer. How does she do it? I asked her to share her best tips and tricks with me and her first response was, “Clean your space every day.” If you work in an office, it’s easy to leave it to the nighttime cleaning crew to tidy up. But, they’re not going to do a deep clean of your desk and organize your papers and things. Make it a habit to clean, organize, and straighten up your workspace every single day—especially if you work from home and have a home office! Make it ritual to take care of the space where you get things done.
Cause 2: Distractions (smartphone…cough, cough…smartphone)
Social media is one of the biggest time sinks. If you want to get serious about staying focused, delete social media apps on your phone…or even better yet, go off of social media altogether. If you LOVE Facebook or Instagram, schedule an hour after work to spend scrolling. That way, social media becomes a treat to yourself, instead of a mindless distraction. If you like to send texts to friends and significant others throughout the day, think about how much time you’re spending doing that. Try putting your phone on airplane mode during certain hours of the day so you can truly focus on what you need to get done.
Believe it or not, keeping a distraction list can keep your distractions down. Need to find a birthday present for your aunt but you have an appointment in 20 minutes? When a distracting to-do pops into your head, simply jot it down on a separate sheet of paper or Google doc. Once you have a break in your day you can look at the list and see which ones you want to focus on next.
Cause 3: An overly packed schedule
Did you know that scheduling time to just sit and think can be a really great way to get things done? When you’re running from task to task, your brain and body can get totally fried. Being productive is all about recognizing the times of day when you can get the most done, balanced with rest and recovery. If you’ve just finished a big meeting or study session, schedule time to grab a coffee, drink water, walk around the block or chat with a coworker before going back to hitting the grindstone. These small breaks give your brain some time to catch up and get your head back on straight before tackling the next big task.
Cause 4: Waking up late
It’s hard, but waking up an hour earlier truly helps get your day started right! People who achieve great things know that maximizing their day starts the minute they open their eyes. And luckily, there are ways to wake up more effectively than just rolling over and hitting snooze 10 times. If you’re serious about your productivity, waking up with a positive and productive mindset can set the tone for the day ahead. Even waking up an hour earlier can help put your day on the right track. I read a book called The 5 AM Club that introduces a 20/20/20 framework as the best way to structure your morning. What is the 20/20/20 framework? It’s a way to separate the first hour of your morning into 3 chunks of time to give your morning a bit of structure:
- First 20 minutes: Do some form of physical exercise. This can be a short run, a quick yoga session, or hitting the gym for 20 minutes.
- Second 20 minutes: Reflect and write down your thoughts in a journal. You could also use this time to meditate.
- Third 20 minutes: Learn something new—either read a book, read the news, or listen to a podcast.
You can play around with how you arrange these 20-minute chunks, but the idea is that you experiment with a morning routine that works best for you. Maybe 20 minutes is way too long to start off, so you can begin with 5 minutes and work your way up to 20 minutes. According to The 5AM Club, it takes 66 days to make a new behavior a habit. Go ahead and try out this new morning routine for 66 days and see how it affects your day, week, and month!
How To Be More Productive (14 Productivity Tips)
1. Avoid excuses
Have you met someone who talks your ear off about the book they want to write, the movie they are definitely going to make someday, or a million-dollar business idea they’re going to get off the ground soon? Dreams are wonderful ideas to share with one another, but be careful if you are always following a dream with an excuse. The bottom line is that how to be more productive never comes from making excuses. Excuses are easy to come by but achieving what you truly want in this lifetime is less easy.
2. Get consistent
There are only 24 hours in a day, and the best remedy for inaction is moving forward. If you want to write a book, just start with a sentence. If you want to make a movie, start with shooting the first scene. If you want to start that million-dollar business, write a business plan. The truth about reaching goals is that it’s not always about hitting home runs, it’s about consistently hitting singles. Putting in the concentrated effort every day will build you a solid base for success.
Imagine a young writer is told: “Show up to the paper every day and write. One day you’ll reach some kind of success.”
Even though the advice seems useful, it’s not exactly inspirational. But, the young writer does as she’s told and shows up every day to write. She creates a routine, practicing her craft every morning with different writing exercises and readings. Over time, her craft gets stronger. If you develop consistent habits, whatever you want to master will get stronger too.
3. Set one priority a day
Switch things up and perform the most important tasks first. What do you absolutely want to get done today? Write it down and set it as a goal to give your day purpose and meaning. Plus, if that’s the biggest priority, you’re more likely to check it off your list.
4. Check email in the afternoon
Wait until a lull in your day to chop away at that growing inbox. Using your precious brain capacity early in the morning to sort email is one of the biggest productivity fails. Wait until you’ve already accomplished a few of your goals, and then open that inbox.
5. Outsource when you can
Think about Pablo Picasso, Michael Jordan, or Einstein. They picked one subject and mastered it. If you’re running around trying to be a master violinist, yogi, marketing executive, interior designer, and baker you’re probably going to fail at all of them. Instead, focus on the one area or skill you can devote yourself to daily, and outsource the rest. Save your time and energy for your genius.
6. Drink more water
When you’re feeling hydrated and healthy you have way more energy to get things done. Carry around a water bottle and fill up with a scoop of Super Youth Tropical Punch or Super Youth Peach Mango collagen for a delicious boost of flavor!
7. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks
Use the time you spend on the train, in your car, or waiting in traffic to strengthen your brain. Listening to award-winning books and podcasts is one of the top productivity tips and can provide you with valuable learning time and double up on your productivity.
8. Do nothing, seriously
Can you believe that doing the exact opposite of productivity can give you amazing results? Any book on how to be productive will tell you that letting your mind wander and just THINK is one of the most healthy things you can do for your brain. Spend an hour walking around and just thinking. Or sit in a coffee shop and watch the world go by. Turn off your phone, think, and focus.
9. Create a stop doing list
Yes, you have a to-do list, but do you have a stop doing list? When you focus on the essentials, you stop spinning your wheels on things that won’t benefit you in the long wrong. So what are you doing now that you can cut out?
10. Establish an AM/PM routine
Many successful people have a morning routine of rising early. Even small changes, like waking up 15 minutes earlier can lead to unimaginable results over time. For more morning productivity tips, check out these tips on how to create a healthy morning routine for a successful day.
You know what they say, sleep better, live better. The way you unwind and get your mind and body ready for sleeping is just as important as how you wake up. For more tips on how to be more productive, improving your evening routine can help improve sleep and productivity.
11. Use that calendar
Paper and pen? Great. Google calendar? Awesome. App on your phone? Spectacular. Whatever you’re using to schedule out your time, use it and soon you’ll be writing a blog on how to be productive! Knowing how you will spend your time each day is huge to your productivity and planning out your time wisely.
12. Get into the BEST shape of your life
When you see and look your best, you will have more energy than ever. Hit the gym, stick to that yoga schedule, take a daily supplement like SkinnyFit Super Youth Collagen, get serious about your health, and watch the rest of your life transform…for the better.
13. Stop multi-tasking
Did you know that multi-tasking isn’t even real? According to NPR, our brain can’t focus on two things at the same time, but it can switch focus quickly. So if you think you’re able to watch tv, write an email, and talk to someone on the phone, sorry to break it to you, but you’re kidding yourself. Stopping your multi-tasking is productivity tips 101! Better to focus on one task at a time and give it your full attention.
14. Set future you up for success
Set a timer for the coffee pot the night before. Pick out your outfits for each day of the week. Pack the suitcase a few days before. There are simple ways to plan hours, days, or even weeks ahead that will reduce your stress levels and help you live more efficiently.
The Bottom Line
People who are ridiculously productive didn’t get there by accident. They experimented with how to be more productive until they found a system that worked for them. When you plan out your day with intention and purpose, you’re better able to use every minute efficiently. Use this year to experiment with what method works best for you. There is a TON of research and information out there, now it’s up to you to find habits you can stick to. The process of creating your own productivity habits is sort of like shopping for clothes. Sometimes you find a beautiful dress but it doesn’t fit perfectly, so you make adjustments until it does. You get it tailored to fit your body like a glove. The same is true with time management. Maybe you don’t need to wake up at 5 AM every morning, but you do make a schedule every day of your top priorities.