How to Be More Productive

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Productivity

Being productive means getting the most out of your time. It means being efficient and effective with your work. 

Productivity isn’t about working long hours or frantically typing away at your computer for hours and hours each day. It is all about being smart about how you spend your time to use it in the best way possible.

There are a lot of things you can do to be more productive. You can set goals, create a plan, and use tools and techniques to help you get the most out of your work. You can also learn to manage distractions and stay focused on what’s important. And if you want to be productive, you need to know how to take care of yourself physically and mentally.

Learn how to be more productive and how using your time efficiently can benefit your well-being.

How to Be More Productive

Being more productive isn’t something that happens overnight. While some people might make it look effortless, their ability to plan and utilize their time effectively often has more to do with well-established habits that contribute to higher productivity over time.

There are a number of things you can do to be more productive.

Create a Plan

One of the most important is to set goals and create a plan. If you have a specific goal in mind, you’ll be more likely to work towards it. And if you have a plan of what you need to do, you’ll be more likely to stay on track.

Planning what you need to get done and writing down a plan to accomplish it can improve productivity. Researchers have found that planning activities and utilizing to-do lists help reduce the brain's executive burden of worrying about unfinished tasks, freeing up resources to focus more on other projects, a phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik effect. 

As you develop your plan of action, think about:

  • What you need to do
  • When you need to have it done by
  • How much you’ll need to do each day to reach your goal
  • Whether this project is part of a larger goal

Recap

Having a plan and creating goals can help you to be more productive. Select your goals and prioritize which ones are the most important. Next, create a schedule that you can stick with. 

Find Tools That Will Help

You can also use tools and techniques to help you get the most out of your work. For example, you can break down your goals into smaller tasks, and use a timer to keep yourself focused. You can also take short breaks to refresh your mind and come back stronger than before.

Staying organized is a top priority if you want to be more productive. Find a daily planner that works for you, whether a paper-based planner or an online website or app. 

Take Care of Yourself

And if you want to be productive, taking care of yourself physically and mentally is essential. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and take time for yourself daily. This will help you stay energized and focused throughout the day.

Part of caring for yourself also involves knowing when to take breaks. You can’t be productive 24/7, so create a realistic schedule that includes a healthy balance of work, leisure time, and rest. 

Find Ways to Fight Procrastination

Procrastinating until the last minute is a bad habit that can take a toll on your ability to be productive. This tendency is often linked to problems with self-control and time management, but there are strategies you can utilize to help keep you on task.

The first step is figuring out why you keep procrastinating. Some people put things off because they don't know where to begin, while others do it because they have a low tolerance for boredom.

Once you understand the why, you can devise a plan to fight your procrastination habit. You might start by breaking up a task into smaller steps that you need to do daily. Then set a timer and commit to working on it for a certain amount of time. 

Ask for Help When You Need It

You can also maximize your productivity by knowing how and when to ask for help. Delegating some responsibilities can free you up to focus your time on the things that are really going to help you accomplish your goals.

This might involve asking family members to pitch in, or you might opt to pay other people to handle the tasks you don’t have the time or energy to do.

Learn How to Say "No"

In addition to planning what you need to do, you also need to find a way to eliminate unnecessary drains on your time and energy. For many people, this involves learning how to say "no" to distractions and demands.

This isn't always easy, but prioritizing your goals can help you better determine which activities to keep and which ones need to be eliminated.

Recap

No matter what you do, remember that being productive doesn’t mean working long hours or constantly being on the go. It means being efficient and effective with your time and using it in the best way possible. So take some time to plan and prepare, find the tools that work for you, and take care of yourself both physically and mentally.

Characteristics of Productive People

There are many different factors that contribute to a person's productivity levels, including their motivation, personality, and energy levels. People who are productive tend to have a few key characteristics in common. 

Productive People
  • Goal-oriented

  • Organized

  • Focused

  • Mentally tough

  • Care for themselves

  • Good at dealing with distractions

Unproductive People
  • Struggle to set goals

  • Disorganized

  • Unfocused

  • Give up easily

  • Poor self-care

  • Easily distracted

If you want to be more productive, try to emulate these characteristics. Goal-orientation, organization, focus, self-care, and distraction management are all essential skills for anyone looking to get the most out of their time.

Benefits of Being Productive

Being more productive comes with many benefits, which is why there are so many self-help materials focused on improving productivity. When you’re productive, you can get more done in less time. You’re also more efficient and effective with your work. This means you can accomplish more goals and achieve more success.

People who are healthy and happy also tend to be more productive. They get more sleep, eat healthier foods, and take time for themselves regularly. This helps them stay energized and focused throughout the day. And when you’re healthy and happy, you can achieve even more.

Potential Pitfalls of Being Less Productive

If you tend to feel unproductive, you might worry about the potential impact it might have on your life. The most obvious problem is that being less productive means getting less done. This can lead to missed opportunities and decreased success.

Feeling as if you are not productive can also affect your self-esteem. If you feel like you're not accomplishing the things you need to in life, you might be left questioning your value and self-worth.

However, it is also important to remember that it is not healthy to feel like you have to be productive all the time. You are not a machine, and your worth is not determined by what you can produce.

Having time to decompress, relax, and enjoy life is essential for your mental health, happiness, and overall well-being.

Can You Be Too Productive?

There are times when the quest to be productive can have a negative impact on your mental health. For example, if you tend to be a workaholic or an overachiever, the need to always be productive can lead to a tremendous amount of stress. 

Such stress can make it difficult to relax and can seriously impact your physical and emotional health. It can also contribute to burnout which can leave you feeling exhausted, unfocused, and unable to cope.

Reaching a state of burnout also has a serious detrimental impact on productivity. To avoid this, it is critical to ensure you are taking a balanced approach that allows you to maximize your productivity without taking on too much. Check in with yourself regularly to see that you are taking enough breaks and caring for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are some signs of productivity?

    Here are a few signs that you’re being productive:

    • You’re able to complete tasks on time.
    • You’re able to focus and stay on task.
    • You’re organized and don’t procrastinate.
    • You have a positive attitude and are motivated to achieve your goals.
    • You’re taking care of yourself physically and mentally.
    • You’re able to ask for help when you need it.
    • You can find a system that works for you and stick to it.
    • You’re able to keep a positive attitude even when things get tough.
    • You can stay focused on your goals even when you feel like giving up.
    • You can celebrate your successes and learn from your failures.
  • How can I stay productive?

    Knowing what to do and when to do it can help you stay on track. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).  This will help you break them down into manageable steps that you can complete.

    It can also be helpful to establish a routine and stick to it as much as possible. This means setting regular times for when you’ll work on specific tasks and taking breaks at consistent intervals. If you find your focus waning, try some quick mental exercises or take a walk to clear your head.

  • Why can't I be productive?

    There are many different reasons why people sometimes struggle with productivity. Poor time management and motivation often play a part, but other factors may be involved. You may have a fear of failing, low energy or it's possible that you have a mental health condition.

    If you have a difficult time being productive, it may be a good option to speak with a mental health professional.

Summary

There are many advantages to being more productive, including getting more done, reaching your goals, and feeling greater accomplishment. Strategies that can help you become more productive include having a plan, utilizing productivity-enhancing tools, caring for yourself, and learning how to prioritize your time can be helpful. 

A Word From Verywell

Remember to give yourself some grace. Productivity looks different for everyone, and there will be days (or even weeks) when you just don’t feel like being productive. Just try to get back on track as soon as possible, and don’t beat yourself up over it. If your lack of productivity (or your tendency to overachieve to the point of exhaustion), consider speaking to a mental health professional.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.