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12 Tips to Be More Productive

The best tips to become more productive entail working efficiently and effectively to foster positive habits that fully apply your skills and resources. Becoming more productive means accomplishing more high-quality output via optimized workflow strategies in less time.

How to be more productive
Productivity is a habit you can build through actionable strategies.

Productivity habits amplify your current strategies and abilities. For example, minimizing unnecessary distractions preserves mental focus to let you fully immerse yourself in your work. Strategically incorporating blocks of time you can devote to your work is a way to ensure you’re accomplishing important tasks promptly.

Working more productively means continually clarifying personal and professional purpose, then designing behaviors to organize time, relationships, and talents to maximize impact. Elevated productivity is important at individual, organizational, and societal levels because progress depends on transcending existing constraints. You should assess your past and present efforts to maintain efficiency and learn what works best for you. Then, you can determine what to change about your efforts to improve.

Figure 1. below presents the top 12 productivity tips. Further down the page, we delve deeper into these points, along with the signs you’re increasing productivity, and explain how productivity improves your life.

Tips to become more productive
Figure 1. This infographic lays out our 12 best tips for increasing productivity.

1. Prioritize important tasks

Prioritizing important tasks enhances productivity by carefully ranking each task or project based on its relevance to your goals and time sensitivity. High-priority designations are given to the critical activities needed to progress on key objectives or meet pressing deadlines. For example, an engineer working on a new product would likely prioritize prototypes and testing over administrative paperwork since releasing the product depends first on perfecting the design.

Effective prioritization enables individuals to focus time and effort on the assignments with the greatest impact or timeliness. This prevents less significant tasks from distracting from high-value work and allows the ordering of activities for maximum efficiency. Tasks are then tackled sequentially by priority level, helping ensure the most important work gets done on time. Thoughtful ranking of obligations in alignment with overarching objectives and deadlines is thus a cornerstone practice for consistent execution and making the best use of finite time. Individuals who routinely prioritize their tasks reap higher productivity and are poised for workplace success.

2. Streamline communication

Streamlining communication boosts efficiency by simplifying interactions and reducing unnecessary exchanges. You should refine and clarify how information is shared so that communication is direct, clear, and purposeful. You avoid misunderstandings and save time during team interactions by clearly communicating information.

Streamlined communication might involve implementing tools like centralized communication platforms, setting clear email and meeting guidelines, or establishing straightforward protocols. For example, a team might use a project management method such as a Kanban board, thus avoiding the inefficiencies of lengthy email chains and repetitive meetings about statuses. Such a methodical approach to communication expedites information flow and fosters a more cohesive and productive working environment.

3. Minimize decision-making

Minimizing decision-making is a productivity strategy that reduces the number and complexity of choices. Keeping your list of choices short means you preserve mental energy and can focus it on essential decisions. This approach is effective because it prevents decision fatigue, a common barrier to sustained performance.

This technique requires establishing standard protocols, delegating minor choices, and utilizing decision-making tools. For example, a manager might set predefined criteria for assessing project proposals to accelerate the approval process. This reserves their mental faculties for more strategic leadership decisions that shape organizational direction. Similarly, you can minimize decisions outside the office by developing a versatile capsule wardrobe to reduce daily outfit selection time. The quick start to your day means you can focus on the parts of your day that matter most.

4. Discover shortcuts

Discovering shortcuts boosts productivity by identifying innovative, streamlined methods to accomplish tasks. Discovering shortcuts helps with efficiency because it enhances resource optimization. By working smarter, you and your organization can reallocate freed-up time and energy towards higher-priority goals and reduce costs.

Useful sources of inspiration include observing other high performers’ strategies and soliciting suggestions from colleagues or mentors. For example, a colleague who creates templates for common client communications eliminates repetitive work each time they reuse them. Gradually, pockets of free time coalesce into a visible boost in output velocity. Other workers could follow this method to see similar successes and have efficiency ripple through the office.

5. Incorporate breaks

Incorporating regular breaks in your workday is a beneficial productivity strategy that involves scheduling short pauses to renew mental clarity and vigor. This practice has the potential to prevent burnout by alleviating accumulated mental strain. For example, taking a five-minute breathing break after an intense focus period curtails the onset of fatigue.

Brief activities to relax or inspire you act as a reset button that enables you to subsequently tackle tasks with refreshed cognitive resources. On a broader scale, quality break integration sustains energy levels across longer horizons. Over months, the compound effect of strategic respites is higher output consistency and accuracy with less effort expended. Protecting human capital in this way translates to gains for employers, which lowers absenteeism and healthcare costs while raising engagement.

6. Divide tasks into smaller parts

Dividing large tasks into smaller, more manageable parts is a productivity technique that segments complex projects into discrete stages or actions. The divided tasks make the workload appear less intimidating and easier to initiate. This method simplifies execution by creating a series of incremental, focused subtasks instead of one amorphous process.

This approach enhances individual and team productivity by enabling greater organization, efficiency, and motivation. The next steps become obvious when goals are broken into clear, short-term milestones. For example, writing a 50-page research report seems daunting, but decomposing it into small steps makes it more structured. Each piece can be completed sequentially in a planned, systematic way.

7. Utilize the 80/20 rule

Utilizing the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, enhances productivity by focusing on the most impactful tasks. This prioritization approach is rooted in the observation that 80% of results come from 20% of efforts. For example, 20% of a salesperson’s clients might generate 80% of their total commissions.

Applying the 80/20 rule encourages working smarter by isolating and diligently executing high-impact activities. Doing so leads to greater momentum towards goals than thinly spreading effort. On an organizational level, concentrating resources on productivity-driving segments lifts overall performance exponentially. This rule requires analyzing data and processes to uncover correlations between vital inputs and outputs. Once identified, workflows can be fine-tuned to feed disproportionate energy into performance-influencing components.

8. Foster deep work

Fostering a state of deep work radically enhances productivity by cultivating the ability to focus intensely without distraction. Deep work refers to periods of uninterrupted, concentrated effort dedicated to cognitively demanding tasks. The output and efficiency of a work session are significantly higher in this mode.

The logic behind deep work is that constant task switching and disruptions fragment attention, drain cognitive resources, and obstruct entering a flow state. For example, writing code with colleagues pinging questions every few minutes hampers coding progress. Whereas sealing off a 2-hour coding session facilitates ingenuity and faster troubleshooting. Instituting deep work requires establishing distraction-free environments and incorporating deliberate practice methods. Over time, greater mastery is cultivated by applying full faculties through intense effort.

9. Prepare for contingencies

Preparing for contingencies is a productivity strategy involving proactively anticipating potential issues and planning if something goes wrong. By envisioning likely risks, challenges, or changes inherent to a process, you can implement buffers to minimize disruption when the unexpected strikes. For example, a software startup might realize its agile development roadmap could be impacted if a key developer retires early. By cross-training colleagues in advance, strategic contingency plans cushion against sudden talent loss.

However, considering possible friction points to help identify necessary skill development can benefit you in or out of the office. An entrepreneur might enroll in weekend coding classes as a contingency, enabling them to build new skills if their current career trajectory is challenged. Preparing a Plan B empowers staying the course and prevents workflow derailment in chaotic times. By envisioning challenges from past failures or random occurrences and backing those weak spots with support structures, you’ll progress confidently, knowing you can course-correct seamlessly.

10. Apply the Eisenhower Matrix

Applying the Eisenhower Matrix enhances productivity by helping prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance. The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool that divides tasks into four quadrants: urgent and important, important but not urgent, urgent but not important, and neither urgent nor important. This method is meant to keep you focused on tasks important for long-term success rather than just those that appear urgent. Doing so ensures that time is spent effectively on activities that truly contribute to personal or organizational goals.

Using the Eisenhower Matrix might mean a manager delegates tasks that are urgent but not important to focus on strategic planning, which is important but not urgent. For example, a business leader may use the matrix to prioritize developing a long-term business strategy (important but not urgent) over answering non-critical emails (urgent but not important). Applying the Eisenhower Matrix allows individuals to distinguish between tasks requiring immediate attention and those contributing to long-term objectives to optimize productivity and time management.

11. Gain insights from achievements and errors

You can gain insights from successes and setbacks as a productivity habit that drives continual improvement by analyzing past performance. This involves deliberately identifying what stimulated favorable outcomes and errors through reflective analysis. Detecting these causal factors lets you replicate victories while revealing areas needing refinement. Conversely, noting inadequate staff training caused service bottlenecks prompts bolstering preparation protocols to prevent recurrence.

This reflective practice is fundamental for maximizing productivity because it engenders learning from direct experiences. For example, a software development team might analyze the success of a recent product launch to identify the effective strategies used and the pitfalls encountered and then refine their approach for future projects. Over time, regular review sharpens discernment and judgment calls by exposing subtle nuances behind high achievement. These tangible takeaways are then assimilated into individual or company playbooks to enhance productivity and gain competitive advantage.

12. Improve your ability to decline

Improving your ability to decline boosts productivity by enabling you to focus on priorities and manage your workload effectively. Mastering this skill entails setting boundaries aligned to capacities and priorities and tactfully communicating them. The art of declining fosters working intentionally rather than reactively, taking on more than allowable given finite resources.

Improving your ability to decline involves defining key priorities and directing where to redirect extraneous requests. Next, explain why overextension would undermine thriving in said vital areas. Finally, propose alternative support like referring skilled contacts. The ability to say “no” drives productivity by upholding space for what energizes purpose, provokes the highest autonomy, and makes the difference that only you can champion.

Why is being productive important?

Being productive is important because it impacts your efficiency and effectiveness in personal and professional areas of your life. Productivity drives economic growth and business competitiveness. When individuals and organizations produce goods and services more efficiently, they can increase profits, reduce costs, and respond better to market changes. This leads to wage growth, lower consumer prices, and an overall improvement in living standards.

Higher productivity translates to greater personal and professional success. By working smarter, not just harder, productive individuals accomplish more in less time. They complete tasks quicker, meet goals consistently, and have more opportunities to pursue career goals. This increased productivity breeds confidence and gives you an internal sense of purpose.

Moreover, productivity enables work-life balance. Maximizing output in a shorter time frees up hours in the day for relaxation, relationships, and other important non-work activities. Balanced productivity supplemented with rest and self-care leads to sustained performance throughout life.

What are the signs that you are increasing productivity?

Changes in your routine and work habits are signs of increasing productivity. As you become more productive, you’ll notice improvement in your ability to accomplish tasks efficiently and effectively. Higher productivity means achieving greater output with the same input or achieving the same output with less input. So clear signs are completing more tasks in a shorter time frame or maintaining your output levels with less effort. For example, you might observe yourself exceeding your daily goals or finishing your task list ahead of schedule.

You’ll notice that you spend less time on unproductive work like procrastination and have an enhanced ability to focus on your priorities. Prioritizing tasks gives you more time to spend on things you enjoy, which signifies a productive lifestyle.

How does productivity improve lifestyle?

Productivity can significantly improve one’s lifestyle in several key ways. Most fundamentally, productivity allows individuals to accomplish more goals in less time, freeing up hours for leisure, relationships, self-care, and other enriching activities. For example, utilizing effective time management strategies and workflow optimization techniques helps condense the time spent on professional obligations. This gives individuals more freedom to pursue creative passions, connect with friends and family, exercise, relax, or engage in other hobbies that promote well-being and happiness.

Additionally, boosted productivity reduces stress and anxiety by preventing the accumulation of work and intense pressure from looming deadlines. When individuals can efficiently tackle tasks and projects on time, they experience less worry and mental strain. This improves lifestyle quality by facilitating greater peace of mind. Relatedly, a productive approach builds self-confidence as completing tasks reinforces belief in one’s abilities. Progress and achievement realized through productivity nurtures a positive, empowered mental state.

Higher productivity can also enable career advancement and higher wages, providing greater financial resources to fund a desirable lifestyle like traveling or comfortable housing. On a societal scope, widespread productivity gains contribute to increased innovation, efficiency, and GDP per capita, enabling greater access to lifestyle-enhancing goods and services.

Is creating a productive daily schedule helpful?

Yes, creating a productive daily schedule is helpful. Making a well-structured schedule is a way to create a personal roadmap for your day. With your schedule, you’ll allocate specific time slots for different tasks, which aids in staying productive.

By prioritizing tasks, you ensure that less significant ones do not overshadow important activities. This prioritization improves efficiency and reduces the stress of last-minute rushes. Additionally, a schedule assists in maintaining a balanced approach to work and leisure, which helps keep you from feeling the negative effects of long-term productivity and avoiding burnout.

Your daily schedule is a way to focus your thoughts during working hours by setting clear boundaries for work and personal time. Moreover, it enhances time management skills because it requires planning and foresight to allocate time appropriately. A schedule instills a sense of discipline and routine and is a foundational tool for keeping yourself on track and maximizing the effectiveness of the time spent on various activities.

Does having a good night’s rest increase productivity?

Yes, having a good night’s rest increases productivity. You should get a good night’s sleep each night to maintain proper cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and decision-making. When well-rested, you’re more likely to maintain focus, process information efficiently, and be creative in problem-solving.

Sleep plays a vital role in consolidating memories and learning, meaning that rest can directly impact your ability to acquire new skills and knowledge that help with productivity. However, lack of sleep can lead to diminished attention span, slower reaction times, and impaired judgment, all detrimental to productive work.

Is there a downside to being productive?

Yes, there can be downsides if you’re overly focused on productivity. It’s normal for productivity to have positive connotations, but emphasizing it excessively can lead to stress and burnout. Stress and burnout occur when individuals push themselves too hard to maximize every minute of their day for work-related tasks and neglect rest or personal time.

Additionally, the constant pursuit of productivity can create unrealistic expectations and pressure to perform, which can be mentally and emotionally draining. The pressure can become distracting and cause a decrease in the quality of your work because you’re rushing to complete more tasks. In some cases, this drive for productivity leads to mental and physical health issues. For example, the stress from overworking can lead to heart issues and increased blood pressure. It’s important to balance your productivity and time spent relaxing to avoid the negative impacts.