I wonder if this is a weird hobby of mine – it probably is – but I love reading about or listening to people, especially women who run their own businesses, talk about their morning routines, how they manage their schedule and how to increase productivity.
There couldn’t be enough of this sort of media out there. I want it all. ALL OF IT.
I love learning from inspirational people who have mastered the art of a well-managed schedule, and I try to implement as many pieces of advice that I can in my daily life.
From all of my article reading and podcast listening, there are a few things I’ve gathered that are the same no matter what productive, hard working, busy person you talk to.
Productivity Tips from Productive People
1. Ask for help.
While the more successful people I hear this advice from can obviously afford to hire a babysitter whenever they want or bring someone in to clean their house, I hear it from normal everyday people, too.
Identify areas in your life that you could delegate to someone else or ask for help on, leaving you more time to focus your attention on the things that matter. Delegating even simple tasks can increase productivity right away – as long as you do it right.
Can you ask for help?
Do you have a friend whose child might need a little cash they could earn by mowing your grass or helping you clean your house?
Or a high school student who could help you ship packages or take photographs?
Or a partner or best friend who wouldn’t mind helping you package orders?
I have learned that highly productive people are also incredibly grateful when they do ask for help or delegate work to others. They express gratitude for the help – it is not owed to them, and they are appreciative that they are in a place in their life that they can delegate and ask for help.
So remember that too – express gratitude, and never take the help for granted.
2. Tune out the distractions.
This goes for any and all distractions – text messages, social media mentions or comments, etc. – but email seems to be the main perpetrator for most people.
Instead of allowing notifications to rule and disturb their life, highly productive people allow for specific times each day where they will check their email inbox / phone notifications / etc.
Obviously, you can’t ignore your phone all day if an emergency might arise. But flip your phone over on its face so you can’t see the screen. Don’t allow new emails to pop up as a notification on your computer. Take control of the notifications flooding in.
Need to keep an eye on your inbox all day long because of the nature of your job? I get that – that was me for a while, too. Most of our communication was done via email because we were a remote team. Response times had to be quick.
In that case, use filters – send shopping emails and other distractions to a folder that you can check after hours. Allow for notifications from specific email senders, but ignore the people whose emails can wait until later.
And electronic distractions aren’t the only kind out there. Wear headphones when you’re working in a noisy location or a communal office; face away from the people in the room if you’re working in a coworking space or a coffee shop; make it clear to friends and family what your working hours are; close your door.
3. Routines are good.
I am the queen of no routines. I hate routines. You know how they say you need to do something every day for two months to make it a habit? Well, for me, I would probably need to do something every day for two years before it became habitual.
I don’t know what it is about myself, but, for example: I have to mentally remind myself, “Paige, you need to brush your teeth.” after I wake up and “Paige, you need to brush your teeth.” before I go to bed. I am 24 years old.
I used to appreciate this as something that kept me fun and spontaneous – not my struggle to remember to brush my teeth, mind you, but my reluctance to form routines. Now, I recognize it now as a huge weakness.
Should every part of your life be a ritual or a routine? No. But you should implement a few routines to cut down on unnecessary time spent making decisions.
Highly productive people do the same things every morning when they wake up, before they start working; they tend to eat similar things for lunch every day; they have a ritual they perform before bed that gets them ready for the next day.
They do not, I am certain, lay in bed for an hour after their alarm goes off trying to decide if they’re going to go to Dunkin’ Donuts or not.
4. Prioritize and plan.
When I read about the habits of highly productive people, there’s always one thing that these productive people have in common – they take the time to write a to do list every day or keep one going throughout the week, they prioritize the tasks on their to do list by importance and by difficulty and they plan ahead.
This I can always get behind.
A few general tips I’ve gathered on how to plan to benefit you the most:
- Keep your list short. You can’t possibly achieve all 30 things on your list in one single day. Be realistic.
- Set aside some planning time at the beginning of every day to write out your to do list, identify your priorities and get your bearings before you dive in.
- When a new task comes along, consider how long it will take you. If you know without a doubt that it can be completed in 5 minutes or less, do it right then. If it will interrupt your flow, add it to your to do list.
- Tackle the biggest, most important, most challenging task first, when your mind is fresh. Also known as “Eat that frog.” I reference this often.
- Keep multiple lists going, including daily tasks, overarching projects and milestones, and more.
5. Take breaks.
A previous boss of mine always stopped after we had been marathoning for an hour or so. He would say, “Get up. Walk around. Take a break.”
I would always stay at my desk and start looking at something else I hadn’t gotten to yet while we were brainstorming or on a call. He would then interrupt me and say, “No, really. Get up.”
Half the time, I did. Half the time, I didn’t.
Guess what happens when I didn’t? I end up cranky and needing a break within 30 minutes.
But really: You should not sit still at your desk for more than an hour straight. I know that sometimes it seems unavoidable, but there’s no reason you can’t get up to go to the bathroom, fill your water cup or take a walk around the office or your apartment building.
6. Take advantage of your downtime.
And hey, while you’re taking those breaks… they can still be productive. Get up and walk around while you take a phone call that doesn’t require your computer to be in front of you. Or plug in your headphones and listen to an audiobook or podcast while you stroll for 10 to 15 minutes. Or, if you work from home, start a load of laundry or take something upstairs or to another room that needs put away, and stretch your legs.
When you only have 24 hours in a day but you need 48 or more hours just to get everything done, you start to make every moment count. I learned this from the same previous boss from above – your morning and evening commutes are actually really valuable.
He always filled his 30-minute commute to the office with a phone call he needed to have.
Now, I fill my drives with self-development podcasts and audiobooks that I’ve been meaning to listen to but haven’t had a chance yet. I listen to training videos while I fold laundry. It’s productive multi-tasking.
7. Done is better than good.
This has always been my mantra, because I can get a little perfectionist-y with certain things. Pat, also, is a huge perfectionist. I repeat this to him so often, too, that I’m sure the noise-cancelling headphones I got him for our anniversary were a blessing for more than just one reason.
When you are good at something and you love doing something, you tend to want it to always be perfect.
I didn’t want to share the first chapters of my novel with anyone, or launch my new business name, or start posting on my blog until everything was just right.
Sometimes, my perfectionism is a good thing. Other times, it can get in my way and cause me to miss a deadline or to focus for hours on things that aren’t important.
Highly productive – and successful, mind you – people know that sometimes, although not always, done is better than good. Done is always better than perfect, in my opinion, and I think many people would agree.
On the spectrum of productivity (because I do believe it is a spectrum, y’all) where do you fall? Too productive and burnt out? Not productive at all? Busy without being productive? It can be hard to find a balance.
Share your tips for finding a productive balance in the comments!