Let’s face it. No matter what path you’re on, there’s always a way to do something better, something faster. We’ve all wondered how to be productive and how to be make better use of our time.
These are things we hold in common.
But it can often be confusing to know where to begin. After all, there are a lot of ways to be productive! One problem that people often run into is understanding what productivity actually is – some confuse being busy with being productive, others are just not sure where to start.
If you’re just starting out on your productivity journey, I recommend you check out our full guide on productivity < there.
Or if you want something a little more in-depth, I suggest you take a look at our productivity course < there.
Either way, you’re here right now because you want to know how to be productive, and I want to help.
How To Be Productive: 12 Habits Of Highly Productive People
Let’s throw this hypothetical situation into the mix… who is more productive? Someone that’s:
- Checking a lot of things off their to-do list?
- Trying to manage a work life balance?
- Moving as quickly as possible?
The answer could really be any of those three, but it all comes down to one thing – what are you working towards?
Because if in all three of those scenarios, you are working towards your big picture goals, that’s perfect. Keep chugging along. But more often than not, you’ll find yourself rushing around, trying to move as quickly as possible… on errands. Or on junk. Or on things that are unimportant.
You can productively watch Netflix for 15 hours, but that won’t help you achieve your goals (unless your goals are Netflix-based for some reason).
So the first step in how to be productive-ism is to make sure you are working towards something that matters; some big picture goal off in the distance that inspires and excites you.
Then with that vision in mind you can start working towards it with steadfast determination.
How to be productive everyday
You get 24 hours each day. Don’t waste them. Figure out where you want to go (ie. your goals) and start putting plans into place to get there.
Then with that plan ready, you can start focusing on productivity. You can start pushing forward in the right direction. Because productivity is a combination of speed and accuracy. It’s being effective AND efficient with your time.
When you know where you want to go and have a productivity system to get you there, you can start making huge progress towards your ideal life.
If the idea of productivity seems daunting, don’t worry. Take little steps each day and you will eventually create a mountain of progress. When it comes to your goals, the only deadlines are the ones you set for yourself. So be patient and put one foot in front of the other, each and every day.
By consistently working on your productivity and time management skills, you will be able to create an amazing life for yourself. It just takes a little effort.
With that, let’s jump into our list of the 12 habits of highly productive people.
1. Stop multitasking
Wondering how to be productive in life? Start with this – put an end to multitasking. Really.
You may be fine multitasking on low-level tasks (ex. chores, laundry, etc.), but when it comes to your higher-level big-picture goals you need to single-task.
Single-tasking, in this case, means to place your focus just on the one task at hand. This is one of my favorite time management strategies because it is so easy to implement:
- Choose a task that will move you closer to your goals
- Put all your focus and attention on that one task
- Block out all other distractions until it’s time to take a break
If you’re still not sold on the idea of single-tasking, numerous studies have shown that multitasking leads to getting less done throughout the day. When you try to do multiple things at once, you are unable do any of those tasks well.
Multitasking causes a loss of speed and accuracy due to the fact that our brains are actively switching attention between each activity.
So remember, when it comes to focus single-tasking is the way to go.
Speaking of focus…
2. Use the Pomodoro technique
Invented by Francesco Cirillo, this technique was named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that he used as a university student.
To start, pick something you want to work on. Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus only on that one task. When a distraction pops into your head, write it down, and get back to the task at hand.
After the timer rings, take a 5 minute break. This is one Pomodoro session. After 4 Pomodoro sessions take a longer break of 20-30 minutes, then repeat the process.
The key to this is to be extremely focused on one task during each session. No phones or any other kinds of distractions should be present.
Learn more about the Pomodoro technique < there.
3. Prioritize your to-do-list
When you consider how to be productive, this concept is a must. You need to create a to-do list.
It shouldn’t just be a random list of items though. Create a list based on what’s important and then prioritize it by focusing on the results you want.
Write down the most important tasks you need to get done today. List exactly what you need to do, how to do it, and the end result that you want.
Make your list results-oriented and you’ll get results.
This is one of my favorite productivity hacks because it’s one that you can do right now. Make a new note on your phone, or grab a pen and paper, and start writing down what needs to get done.
4. Use the 80/20 rule
Here’s one of my favorite ways to increase productivity – use the 80/20 rule.
Also known as the Pareto principle, the 80/20 rule states that eighty percent of the results come from twenty percent of the action.
We tend to work with our heads down while forgetting about the big picture. To be productive, however, you need to determine what activities are bringing you the best results and then focus in on them.
Productive people know which actions drive the best results. Focus on those actions and ignore everything else.
5. Wake up early
This is a great tip if you’re pondering how to be productive at home, especially if you have a busy household.
By waking up early, even if only by 20 or 30 minutes, you give yourself a head start on the day. You give yourself time to use however you see fit.
Personally, it was when I started waking up an hour earlier and used that time for my goals that I then started to make real progress.
If you’re a little hesitant about getting an earlier start, Elon Musk, Tim Cook, and Michelle Obama are all known for waking up earlier and tackling their day before the chaos of life sets in.
So give it a try! Oh and one important thing – sleep is a priority. Make sure to go to bed earlier so that you wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
6. Do the worst task first
Mark Twain once said that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you can go through your day with the comfort of knowing that eating that frog is most likely the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day.
The “frog” here is your most important task. If you don’t eat it first thing, you will procrastinate on that task more and more.
One great habit that will help you increase productivity is to start your day with the hardest task first. “Eat the frog” and you will be filled with a motivation that will carry you forward.
Start with one big task at a time and watch how your productivity grows. Get motivated and get after it!
7. Continuously improve
When it comes to how to be productive, one of the less obvious techniques has to do reflection, iteration, and growth.
The process of looking at what you do today, recognizing where you want to go in the future, and then actively taking steps to get there is something that will yield tremendous results.
You can gain that insight through a number of ways. For example, by:
- Enrolling in a productivity course
- Going through a free bootcamp series
- Working on and enhancing the skills that you have today
Either way, by spending some time reflecting on what you do today and practicing new ways to be more effective in the future, you will set yourself up to experience positive compounding results.
8. Avoid social media like the plague
Social media is a major distraction. Because of that, one of my favorite ways for how to be productive is to limit my daily social media exposure.
Try spending a day without your smartphone or social media. You’ll surely notice that you will get more done and experience increased productivity.
If putting your phone away is too hard, try putting it on airplane mode. You’ll spend less time scrolling and more time doing, learning, and achieving.
9. Write it down as it happens
You never know when your next idea may strike. Write them down as they occur so that you can revisit and tinker with them later when you have more time.
Behind every highly effective person is a notebook full of ideas.
Personally, one of my favorite (and simplest) productivity habits is to write ideas down as they come to me. It’s a great way to:
- Empty my mind of clutter
- Stay focused on the task at hand
- And keep track of all my ideas
You can do this too by either using a bullet journal or a note on your phone. Whatever works for you!
Richard Branson (CEO of the Virgin Group) highly recommends it by saying:
“Anyone who aspires to lead a company must develop a habit of taking notes. I carry a notebook everywhere I go.”
If he does it, so should you!
PS: Speaking of bullet journals, if you’re into them here is a great article on bullet journal ideas.
10. Be mindful of resistance
Resistance (aka procrastination) keeps us from doing our work. When we become more aware of that resistance, the more productive we will be.
Remember, don’t be afraid to eat the frog.
Use your goals to motivate you and get to work on what matters most. You just need to take one step forward at a time. Don’t worry about everything else. Just one step.
11. Learn how to say No
As overachievers, we want to do anything and everything. After all, we never know what may lead to that next breakthrough.
Although you may want to take every opportunity, you need to keep in mind what your most desired goals are.
In other words, you need to keep in mind the big picture.
This is one of the most important tips on how to be productive and one of the top time management activities that you should practice. Because if you say yes to activities that don’t contribute to your end goals, you’ll end up wasting time and resources.
To achieve your aims, you need to be deliberate about your time.
Don’t over-commit. Instead, use your big picture goals as a north star that will guide you forward.
12. Take care of your body
Eat smart, rest, and drink lots of water. Living a healthy lifestyle is an essential productivity habit.
Without a healthy mind and body, you won’t be able to increase your productivity. In fact, by operating at suboptimal levels you will probably decrease your productivity!
So grab some veggies, take a nap, and exercise like your productivity depends on it!
Check in on this list from time to time. Recount the various ways for how to be productive and continuously work on improvement and growth.
It’s always good to have a reminder of the things you know you should be doing.
Make a habit of managing your time wisely and setting realistic goals. You’ll start to notice your time management and productivity increase dramatically!