The 10 Things Productive People Always Do

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Regardless of whether you oversee 100 employees or 100 departments, when it comes to being a productive worker and boss, nothing is as important as overseeing yourself. From banishing the monster of multi-tasking to taking regular breaks, productivity is a practice that anyone can master.

21st-century life is complex. From tackling technologies that would have sent our forebears to the nuthouse to trying to remember the last time you got a peaceful night’s sleep, a more-productive life would probably make for a simpler one. Whether you just spent all day researching what shipping software your company needs, worrying about hog prices or chasing after two-year olds, here are ten habits that will make your complicated life a little easier.


The most important part of being more productive is deciding that you want to be more productive — not in an idea-way, but in a doing-it-way. Until you’re ready to really practice productivity, your efforts will probably fail.

Decrease Friction

Whether you like it or not, your brain is wired to avoid friction in tasks and decision-making. From packing your gym bag the night before to only giving yourself two options of clothing the day of a big meeting, reducing friction in your life will go a long way in enabling you to be more productive. By reducing the amount of time and effort it takes to do little, meaningless things, you free up energy to spend more time and effort on the work and decisions that matter.

Bite-Size Your Goals

Most goals are made up of many smaller tasks. When you identify a target you’d like to reach, reduce it into more manageable parts, and then tackle those smaller parts one at a time. By looking at and working on the smaller steps, you’re more likely to get work accomplished than if you spend too much time considering the big picture.

Do the Hardest Thing First Every Day

Regardless of the type of work you do, there is often something looming on your daily horizon that you’d really rather not do. Is there an employee you need to meet with whose personality is taxing? Schedule him for 8 a.m. Do you need to convince an investor to give you more money? Call her right away. Whatever it is that you don’t want to do, slide it to the top of your day’s calendar and get it out of the way. You’ll feel a huge sense of relief, and everything else will come off like a cakewalk.


Multi-tasking is one of the worst things you can do if you want to be more productive. In fact, studies have shown that if you change tasks more than ten times in a day, your IQ drops an average of ten points. Focus on whatever task is at hand with mindfulness and your full attention. You’ll get it done more quickly, and the work you’ve done will most likely be better.

Keep a To-Do List

The most advantageous thing about a to-do list is that it relieves the tasks you need to do from your brain, freeing up valuable energy and mental real estate, while the act of putting them down on paper  makes them more concrete. When you can see what you need to accomplish in words in front of you, you’re more likely to meet the goals recorded there.

Say No

Whenever someone asks you to do something, ask yourself this question, “Will my saying ‘yes’ here mean I say ‘no’ in the future?” If your “yes” forces a “no” you are unwilling to give, then start out with “no.” No one is going to protect the things that matter to you but you.

Take More Breaks

The brain is not a machine any more than the body. When your head and eyes ache after a few hours at the computer, get up, move around and change your focus. Go for a walk, grab a snack or just close your eyes. You’ll boost your efficiency and your quality of life.

Email in Intervals

Email and social media can crush your productivity. Check your email on a pre-set schedule, not more than four times a day, and only hit your social media once until your workday is over. It may sound Draconian, but it works.

Halve Your To-Do List

Once you start keeping a to-do list, put a critical eye to it. Does everything on it really need to be done? Part of being productive is realizing where your time and energy should and shouldn’t go. Get out the paring knife — your to-do list, as important as it is, is probably too big.

Being a more productive person is as simple as making a few concerted changes. From a smaller to-do list to saying “no” more often, you can become a beacon of productivity in your life and work.

About the Author:

Jamie Anderson is a contributing writer and productivity specialist who consults for small- and medium-sized businesses and Fortune 500 companies.

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