10 Practical Ways to Be More Productive

Purple marker checking checklist

“I have so many things to do, but I’m not able to complete a single one. I suck at being productive”

“Why can’t I be productive just like him/her?”

“If I want to be successful, I need to understand how to be productive”

Productivity, productivity, productivity…

You want to be productive like them, like those successful people, like your friend who seems to be able to work, study, read, go to the gym, go on a date, travel to Mars and come back… in one day.

All while your best answer to the question:

“How many things did you accomplish today?”

Is probably something like:

“Well, I checked my phone 200 times, I stared at my wall for 50 minutes straight, I scrolled the same Facebook/Instagram feed 40 times, and last but not least, I’ve read 1 page of my favorite book!”

You hate that it kind of looks like what you do in a day, right? Except that maybe you don’t even read that one page of a book.

“But tomorrow it’s gonna be different! Tomorrow I’m gonna be productive!”

Yeah right, sounds great, if only this wasn’t your 10th time saying it… in the last 2 hours.

But don’t worry, it’s not that you can’t be productive.

You just don’t know how to be productive.

Well, here are 10 tips to help you start to become a productive person.

First, A Quick Definition of Productivity

Before diving into the strategies on how to become more productive, it’s important to clarify what “productivity” actually is.

Is it about doing as many things as you can in a day? Nope. That’s just being busy, not productive.

You see, there’s a difference between the word “productivity” used in sales and the same word used in personal improvement.

In sales, productivity refers to workforce, so the higher the productivity, the higher the amount of goods produced in a certain period of time.

That’s not the case when we talk about personal productivity.

Then is it about doing less things in a day? Kind of, but not exactly.

So what does personal productivity exactly mean?

Personal productivity is about how many relevant things (to you) you are able to do in a certain period of time.

The key idea here is: relevance.

If you do lots of things during a day, but none of these are relevant to you and your goals, you are not productive, you are just busy.

On the other hand, the more you are able to do things that are actually relevant to you, the more you are productive.

Doing less irrelevant things and more relevant things, that’s what a really productive person does.

10 Ways to Improve Your Personal Productivity

1. Start

Grey photo of a competition track starting point

Uhm…duh? Thanks for the incredibly useful advice!

I know it’s kind of obvious, but one of the best strategies to improve your productivity is just to… start.

As obvious as this advice might sound, there are actually a lot of people (including yourself) that forget it and don’t even start.

That happens because you tend to think about how difficult the task is or how long it’s going to take you.

And maybe you waste your time coming up with a plan to be more efficient and complete a 1 hour task in less time, say 30 minutes.

But you know what happens then?

That’s right, you spend 2 hours planning how to complete a 1 hour task better and using less time, but in the end you don’t even start.

Maybe should’ve just settled for completing it in 1 hour, huh?

Let’s get this clear: You don’t need to wait for the right moment or for motivation.

You don’t need to come up with a perfect plan that helps you do your tasks efficiently.

You don’t need to scare yourself by thinking about how difficult it is or how long it’s going to take you.

Seriously, all you need to do is just start doing.

And after you’ve started, it’s going to be easier to keep going. (The Zeigarnik Effect will take care of the rest!)

2. Multitasking? No, thanks!

“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one”
Russian Proverb

Are you capable of multitasking effectively?

Are you good at doing two things at the same time, and perform well on both?

Yes?

Let me tell you a secret: no, you’re not.

Jumping from one task to another, back and forth, does not have any scientific proven benefits.

In fact, it forces your brain to constantly spend time to re-focus every time you change task.

This usually takes up to 20 minutes, and if you do this constantly, don’t expect to perform well on all the tasks you’re doing at the same time.

So stop thinking that you can handle multitasking, because you can’t.

If you’re eating, just focus on eating. Don’t watch your smartphone like so many people do.

If you’re practicing piano, focus on practicing piano. Tell everyone not to disturb you, unless it’s important.

If you’re exercising, focus on exercising.

If you’re reading a book, again, don’t watch your smartphone, and just read the damn book!

Focus on one thing, and then, after that, focus on a different task.

3. Sell Your Phone

Did you know that, on average, most people spend almost two months (two, months!) on their smartphone every year?

Do you have an idea of what you could do instead of wasting that much time? You could read a few books, learn a language, learn an instrument, learn coding, etc…

I mean, that’s more or less 3 hours per day, 90 hours per month, ~1100 hours a year (~45 full days). Every year!

But in reality it’s even worse than that.

That’s just the time people spend on average every day on their smartphone.

You probably waste far more than 3 hours per day scrolling your Facebook or Instagram feed, or watching videos of people eating food.

And hey, remember what you just read above?

It takes up to 20 minutes for your brain to be able to focus again after every interrupted task.

As you can see, by checking your phone every now and then, you don’t solely waste the time you actually spend on it.

So what happens if you get distracted for even just one minute and then find it difficult to focus again on your previous task?

That’s right, you keep wasting time on your phone!

So please, when you’ve got something you have to do, turn your off your phone, or keep it on silent mode at least. Or sell it and buy an old phone with no access to Internet 😀 (ok maybe don’t take such drastic measures).

(Click here for more strategies on how to avoid wasting time on your phone.)

4. Conquer The Morning

Woman enjoying morning sun

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
— Benjamin Franklin

Here’s the thing: if you really want to be productive, there are some moments of the day that you cannot absolutely waste.

I’m talking about those hours where your energy level is at its highest, your motivation is strong and your concentration level is high, as well.

Obviously, it varies from person to person, but for most people those hours are the morning hours.

It’s not a coincidence that so many successful people wake up early and follow a specific morning routine.

They do some of their most important stuff early in the morning, when other people are still sleeping.

This puts the day on the right track and helps with building momentum to be productive all day long.

And even if something unexpected ruins their plans, at the end of the day it’s still going to be a win, because the most important stuff has already been done in the morning.

Note: if you know that your most productive hours are not in the morning, you don’t have to wake up early if you don’t want to. Just make sure you do not waste your most effective hours. Though I still recommend waking up early to get all the benefits given by the morning hours.

5. Run, Forrest, Run

Don’t neglect running (exercising in general, actually), just because you have so many things to do.

Getting fit is crucial for improving your energy levels, your focus and your creativity.

Successful people know that, and that’s why most of them always do some little workout or go out for a run, or a walk, in the morning.

You should as well. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long intense workout.

Just make sure you’re not leading a too sedentary life.

6. Be Realistic

Maybe the reason why you’re not productive is that your to-do list is a little… optimistic.

That’s right, you might have written too many things to do or perhaps some tasks are too big.

It’s easy to get demotivated when you have too many things to do or gigantic tasks.

Here are two quick tips:

  • Write only what you really need or have to do.
    Delete everything that’s “nice to have”, everything that you think someone else would want you to put on your list, and things that you would do anyway (e.g. brush teeth, take a shower, have lunch…)
    Be effective first. Efficient second. Doing unimportant tasks efficiently is completely useless.
  • In case some tasks are so big and are too daunting to even start, divide them into smaller tasks that are not too difficult to complete.
    (e.g. “do homework for tomorrow” can be divided into “do math homework” and “music homework”, which can be divided even more, if you want)

7. Declutter

A tidy work desk allows you to be more productive

One thing that many of us underestimate is how organized (or disorganized) our work space is.

You might say “I don’t mind having this many things on my desk, it’s ok as long as I know exactly where to find everything I need”, but your brain doesn’t really agree.

Your brain actually notices all the mess around you, and it gets stressed.

That leads to lack of focus, and lack of focus leads to “I didn’t complete a single task today”.

So clean your desk, put or throw away everything that’s not useful, and only keep what you really need.

8. Take More Breaks

“I’m only human, after all”
— Rag’n’Bone Man (song: Human)

We’re just humans, after all. We have our limits.

Working continuously for long periods of time can exhaust you both physically and mentally.

Taking a break helps you refresh your mind and recharges your focus, and that’s why the pomodoro technique (25 mins focused work + 5 mins break) is a very useful tool for your personal productivity, as well as a good technique to fight lack of motivation.

9. …and Get More Quality Sleep

Many people think that sleeping less is a cool thing.

They are proud of saying that they work hard until 2 am, that they sacrifice sleep to pursue their goals, that they work really hard on something and sleep only 4 hours…

Yeah, because being a busy person is perceived as a quality.

But being busy does not equal to being productive. Like, at all.

Sleeping well is extremely important if you want to improve your productivity.

If you sleep at a late hour and don’t get quality sleep, the following day you’re going to feel foggy and tired and you’ll struggle much more at being focused and productive.

You should always get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation (that is, assuming you’re not 12).

If you’re convinced of the importance of sleep, take a look at how to sleep better.

10. Be a Snob

You don’t have to go to the supermarket when all other people go.

You don’t have to go to the restaurant on their busiest days.

You don’t have to go to the gym when it’s at its fullest.

It’s just a waste of time.

Instead do things when you know there will be less people.

You’ll be surprised at how much time you can save.

Ok, sometimes you might actually have to go during certain hours, but many times you have the freedom to choose whether to go to the supermarket during the week or during the weekend.

Bonus Tip: Don’t F**king Kid Yourself

Are you kidding you?

Do you think that being busy, extremely busy, is equal to being productive?

I’m sorry, but you should think again.

I know I already said it a few times, but I want to make sure you really get it.

If you want to be productive and become successful, you need to stop telling this bullsh*t to yourself and to others.

If you work hard, really hard, really really hard, but at the end of the day you haven’t made a single step forward towards your most important goals…

You are not productive, you are probably just an idiot.

Being busy does not equal being productive.

Repeat: Being busy does not equal being productive.

Your Productive Journey to Success Starts Now

“I have so many things to do, but I’m not able to complete a single one. I suck at being productive”

“Why can’t I be productive just like him/her?”

“ If I want to be successful, I need to understand how to be productive”

These were some of the thoughts you used to always have.

But not anymore.

Now, these are the thoughts other people will have when they see you being productive and accomplishing many things, while they are just wasting their days staring at a wall, scrolling their Facebook feed hundreds of times and watching dozens of cute animals videos.

Because now you know how to improve your personal productivity.

You don’t have to implement all the strategies at once, just start with one or two that you can use right away, and you’ll begin to see results soon.

You will be the one able to complete every task that’s relevant to you.

You will be the one able to keep going forward towards your biggest goals, without wasting time during the journey.

And you will be the one that other people take as an example of someone who’s leading a life they also want, a life where one’s able to do what they have to do and still have time to do what they want to do, every single day.

Keep in mind the essence of being efficientive: effective first, efficiency second.

It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing less (useless things) to accomplish more (important things).

“Tomorrow’s gonna be different!”

Yeah, it is.

But only if you take action.

Now.

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