In my experience, being productive isn’t necessarily about finding that “one trick” that will always work when you feel lazy. It’s about becoming a person that has all the possible qualities for working hard and that’s achieved by implementing a lifestyle that supports it.
It’s a habit that can be created and supported with these 60 tips:
1. Change the place where you work
If you work on a laptop, get out, (for example) go to a coffee shop and start working. Change of venue will make you feel refreshed.
You should also make a clear distinction between home and a workplace. Get a place that you will keep sacred only for work.
2. Schedule your days
I heard this advice like a million times before I actually grabbed a pen and a ruler and started working on my day schedule. It works miracles, trust me.
Make a schedule for each weekday or even just a layout for what you have to do: I specified some sort of activity for every single hour that belongs to my day.
My shedule for my weekdays looks roughly like this:
- Most of the weekdays consist of 1 hour in the morning for motivation/bullshit/fun
- then work until 5pm
- 1 hour of exercise
- 30-60 minutes for food shower etc
- 1-2 hours of Work / writing
- 1 hour of learning a new language
- at least 1 hour of reading a book + maybe some fun
The schedule is never “ironclad”, there will be times when there are some other things to do, but when I don’t have any special plans, I stick to the schedule.
3. Optimize your schedule so that it compliments your best moments of the day
If you usually get into the state of writing at nights, then that’s your best time to do it as opposed to scheduling it for the mornings.
4. Focus on one thing at a time
People are not multitaskers. Focus on one and then proceed to another.
5. Always have several tasks to do (but focus on one)
If you feel like you can’t focus on the main task, do the second one on your list. This is a good way to bring variation to your daily flow.
6. Meditate at least once a day
It’s hard to believe, but meditation can have a huge effect to your daily life.
Benefits of meditation:
- It makes you focused
- You will feel less anxiety, depression and stress
- It Increases positive emotions
- It Boosts your immune system
Read the rest of the benefits from Emma Seppalas amazing infograph on meditation.
7. Write down your ideas
I always thought that I would remember all the ideas that I had, but I was proven wrong over and over again.
Carry a piece of paper and a pen to put down your thoughts and ideas. You can also use a notifier/calendar on your phone as I do.
8. Make a competition for yourself
Awaken the competitive self in you and make a competition of what you have to do.
“How fast can I do this?” and so on. Challenge yourself constantly.
Visualize yourself doing your work with intensity. Draw the energy from within and apply it to your life.
10. Exercise regularly
The oldest trick in the playbook and for a damn good reason.
The reason why you are procrastinating is that your mind is clouded with crap – exercising regularly helps you clarify your mind and makes you feel better (leading to more productivity)
11. Stop following news and politics
News & politics a) are a time sink b) make you feel negative.
I don’t know about you, but I never got any great feelings from reading the news.
One of my best decisions was to cut them down completely. Nowadays if I go see what’s up in the world, I feel uninterested towards them as they lack so much depth compared to the articles that I read nowadays.
12. Shutdown all the distractions
Phone, social media, extra tabs on your browser, everything.
If you notice yourself checking your phone because of an old habit, stop. Don’t punish yourself but slowly condition your mind not to check it while working.
I know that the urge is huge as I also am experiencing it continuously. Fight through it for a while and it will quiet down eventually. Make room for social media in your schedule (Though you probably didn’t even make one, you pussy)
13. Say no to distracting people
Other people such as your co-workers can also be a time sink.
It’s not rude to say no to your co-workers or nearby people, that you want to focus.
You should always say no to things that don’t have good effects on your life on long-term. Altucher has written a fine article about it.
14. Get into a habit of starting your job with a blast
A quick start to your work will do amazing things on the long-term, just like jumping out of the bed in the morning.
15. Have a regular sleeping schedule
I had an irregular sleep schedule and I thought that there was something wrong with me. I couldn’t sleep when I wanted to and I couldn’t wake up early.
I even visited a doctor to check me out if I needed some sort of medication for it.
Later I self-diagnosed myself successfully: massive lack of self-discipline. Read my recent article about soul-sucking mornings.
16. Don’t try to make a huge change at once
There’s a chance that you’ll burn out.
Becoming a productive person isn’t something that just happens to you, it’s something that you cultivate until the old you is just an unpleasant shadow of the past.
If you have the burning passion for changing you life once and for all, you’ll be able to do miraculous things.. For a while. When the drawback comes, you have to be ready to fight against the old habits that are starting to lurk back.
I believe that the best way to increase your productivity is to start with small, regular steps that will you do, no matter what. I remember spending at least a few hours a day for my guilty pleasures and I thought that it was what I needed.
Turns out that I didn’t need them – I slowly started to make less and less time for them in my schedule.
17. Know how creating a habit works
If you’ve ever tried to do New Years Resolutions, you know how to start working on it, but you have no idea what to do when you lose the initial motivation.
Getting off of an unproductive habit has a huge gravitational pull.
For the first couple of days it will feel easy, but when the first burst of motivation ends, you’ll notice falling back to old habits.
You have to be conscious of the fact that it won’t be easy and it isn’t supposed to be fun after a while. Between the initial motivation and actual forming of the habit there’s often a painful episode that requires self-discipline and willpower to get through.
tl;dr: don’t get discouraged when you lose motivation – know that you will push through and it will benefit you.
18. Being productive is not always supposed to be fun
Nothing is always fun. There will be times when you feel like pushing through a brick wall and that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Even if it’s not fun, it will always be gratifying when you push yourself.
This is one of the biggest realizations that I had myself – there were huge periods of time in my life when I couldn’t achieve anything just because I wasn’t “having fun”.
19. Focus on the positive
Our lives are steered to the direction we are focused on.
If you focus on negative things all the time, that’s the direction you are heading – that’s how your life will turn out to be.
When working (or doing anything), if you focus on how shitty it is, then you are right. It is shitty from your limited perspective.
Focus on the good.
20. Be aware of what holds you back
It’s your mind and the old habits that are holding you back. Your identity isn’t “someone who’s lazy”, that’s only a condition that you play.
Make a habit of pushing through that mental barrier and you’ll feel amazing later on.
21. Eat well and regularly
Hunger is a HUGE distraction. Remember to eat regularly and well.
If you are having problems with this (it’s closely linked to having irregular sleep schedule), schedule your time for eating.
22. Think outside the box
Nothing is as fun as doing something that’s out of the ordinary. Start with thinking what you do daily and then add a twist to it.
If you are having fun and feeling good, chances are that you’ll feel better about getting something done.
23. Use deadlines
When I was in school, I realized that the panic of the last moment is the best motivator.
You can use this to your advantage.
The trick is to condition yourself to obey your own deadlines – when you do it long enough, you will feel too guilty of not working until the deadline.
24. Use timers to track the time when you are working
I’ve tried out toggle Toggl and I’ve heard that lots of people have had great success with it.
25. Create a to-do-list
Don’t put too much stuff on your list. It will only overwhelm you – keep it at 2-3 items.
Brian Tracy recommends you to prioritize your tasks. Create the list normally, but put them on order of importance. Always start working on the one that is the highest on the list. If you can’t, do the second one and so on.
26. Jump straight to the task
How procrastination works: your mind starts spinning the task in your mind and makes it undesirable.
What happens when you get the idea of doing something and JUMP straight to it, without letting your mind interfere further? You’ll achieve A LOT.
Slightly alternative method – What I do:
Do all the small things instantly. Every time.
They require the least amount of work and least amount of thinking in terms of procrastination. Do you have to make coffee? Or do you have to change your bed sheets? Stop thinking and just do it. The great thing about doing small tasks instantly is that they will build your momentum and help you get to bigger tasks faster.
27. Break it into smaller tasks
For example, if you have to write an article, break the process down:
- Find a topic by reading related material
- Come up with creative, unique, clickable headline
- Come up with the main composition of the article (sub-headers)
- Write the introduction
- And so on..
It’s a lot easier to imagine doing the first step instead of all the steps of a thousand miles journey.
28. Be conscious of the great feeling of getting something done
What really keeps me going is that I know I was unhappy when I couldn’t achieve anything.
I also know that every day that I work hard, I feel great about myself.
Being a bit lazy will feel pretty good for a while, but afterwards you will feel like crap and it will be 1000x harder to come out of the spiral of laziness.
29. Ask productive people
Ask them what they do to stay productive – you may surprise how profound some of their insights are.
Remember that you are average of the five people you spend time with. Be around people who get things done.
30. Develop your willpower
The more you can push through being tired, bored and exhausted, the more you will be able to do it in the future.
31. Improve your habits.
Habits are not something that “just exist” once formed, but you can hone them and make them even more effective.
Once you’ve got to the process of making productive habits down, work to improve on them.
32. Take breaks
If you can manage to be focused for 40-50 minutes, congratulate yourself and take 10 minute break.
However, if you feel like working more, don’t lose the momentum. Take a break when you feel like it.
33. Always focus on doing things that benefit you on the long-run
Short-term gratification, like getting drunk, smoking, procrastinating feels momentarily good, but they will destroy you in the long-term.
Things that benefit you on the long-term feel momentarily bad, but they’ll feel afterwards so much better than the short-term “joys”.
34. Create a habit of starting small
The thought of the big amount of work is discouraging for everyone. The work isn’t the problem – the thought of it is.
Visualize yourself making only the smallest step that you can take toward your goal.
For example, if I have to write 1000 words, I visualize myself opening a “new post”, do it and then I write one word. It can be anything, I usually just write something like “shit”.
Most of the time I have no problem to keep going.
35. Identify your fears
Sometimes procrastination is there because of a fear that you have.
Be aware that failing is the best thing you can do. Do it enough, learn your lessons and you will achieve a lot.
36. Learn how to motivate yourself
It’s a skill that you can learn – never wait for motivation to come to you.
Watch inspiring videos and listen to music that really gets you going. Create a backlog of inspiring stuff.
I’m always on a search for something that motivates me. I’ve also created an ecosystem of affirmations and mind habits to support my motivation.
37. Have fun
Even if you have the most menial task to do, create a spin to it.
Remember when you were a kid and you could have lots of fun being creative with only a couple of rocks? You haven’t lost any of that, you’ve just forgotten.
38. Create goals
If you already have big goals, you can create mini-goals with your task at hand. If you are supposed to write 500 words, create goals of writing 100, 200, 300, 400 and finally the 500 words.
I love thriving towards something, it makes me feel motivated and enables me to enjoy the process to the fullest.
39. Write your goals down
This is also something that I heard about a million times before actually doing it.
Yes, I was procrastinating so badly that I couldn’t write something so simple down. You don’t have to believe that it works to do it… So go ahead and just do it. It’s worth it.
40. Create rewards for yourself
It all comes down to willpower and the willingness to not bullshit yourself.
“Maybe I take the reward this time without doing the work and do it properly next time”
Bullshit, you are just going to keep taking the reward without doing the work.
41. Don’t try to make it perfect
Always make it as good as you can, then it’s the most perfect thing that you can make. Just start doing and pour your soul in to it.
42. Minimize the usage of online fun-sites
Hammer these out of your mind no matter what.
I’ve procrastinated so much because I’ve been addicted to several fun-sites. It’s tough to resist the urge to go check them out, but after a few days you’ll forget them.
43. When it feels like forcing it after really trying, take a break
Forcing it is good when you are procrastinating, but when you are already working and it feels like crap, it’s time to take a break. Go take a short walk.
Be aware of yourself and your thoughts, the problem can often be found from there unless you are getting a fever or something.
44. Always start with the hardest task
There are a few benefits to doing this:
- You’ll get the worst part done and rest of the day will be easier
- You will gain momentum
- You will feel proud of having the discipline to tackle the toughest one down at the start
45. Visualize yourself being amazing
Recall a moment (imaginary or not, doesn’t matter) where you were awesome. Nothing makes me more productive than feeling good.
Our thoughts and especially images that we generate in our minds have the ability to affect our state of being.
46. Ditch the TV
I haven’t watched TV for over a couple of years now and I couldn’t miss it less. It can’t generate the great feeling in me that I can with my daily tasks.
Appreciate everything that you have in your life, be grateful. Doing that brings happiness and peace, which in turn make you more productive.
48. If you are feeling like shit, work on the feeling first
Feel the negative feeling fully.
See the story that you spin around it for what it is.
Embrace the negative in you (though don’t start bashing your coworkers – if you feel the urge to, keep it to yourself) talk about it to someone you can confide to.
Whatever you do, don’t resist it.
49. Channel a feeling of excitement to your work
If you have something in your mind that excites you and makes you feel a little tingly, channel that feeling to your doing.
It’s similar to creating intensity in your life – you only draw the power from different source.
50. Take responsibility
Similarly taking responsibility for your own happiness and wellbeingness, take responsibility for getting the job done. If you aren’t going to do it, no one else will.
You are in charge of your life.
51. Read books on productivity
Here are 10 examples (not in order):
- Brian Tracy: Eat that Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
- David Allen: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
- Stephen R. Covey: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
- David Allen: Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles For Getting Things Done
- The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play
- Steven Pressfield: The War of Art: Break Through the Block & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
- Gary Keller with Jay Papasan: The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
- Richard Koch: The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More With Less
- Leo Babauta: The Power of Less
- Charles Duhigg: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
53. Do something new
Being productive isn’t about being productive when you have to – it’s about your whole life.
If you are not reading anything, start reading a great book, start learning a language, go for audiobook walks or start exercising.
We don’t feel productive when our lives stay stagnant. The new thing can be something unproductive, but I recommend something that will benefit you on the long-term.
54. Get rid of unhealthy habits such as smoking and drinking
Everything that lowers your health will affect your productivity, sooner or later.
55. Plan your day beforehand
Take a few minutes every evening and think about what you have to do tomorrow and write it down.
This will help you to keep organized and will result into having less stress.
56. Clean up your work environment
Nice, organized desk and room will improve your feeling and makes you more productive.
57.Never say “I’ll do it tomorrow“
I used say this a lot to myself, but it’s just another form of bullshitting. You are delegating the task to an imaginary person, who is “you in the future”.
Stop it, the only time is now.
58. Think about the worst-case scenario
A nice trick for setting your priorities straight.
For me, the most horrible thought that I can have is that my dreams won’t come true because I procrastinated too much. After that I always feel like working.
59. Think about the best-case scenario
It’s always best to think about the positive and steer your way towards that. The worst-case scenario may be momentarily helpful, but I wouldn’t get stuck to it as it may become counter-productive if your only aim is to avoid it.
60. Watch more videos about productivity
- My Morning Ritual – How To Be Productive, Happy & Healthy Everyday
- How to Be Productive!
- How to Be Productive by Marie Forleo
- How to Prioritize Tasks