Whether you’re a lifelong procrastinator or just someone trying to be more efficient with your time, these productivity improvement tips are going to show you the hard truth about being more productive with your time and your life.
Often, we equate being busy with being productive, but I’m telling you right now, there’s no correlation!
Just spending your day doing “stuff” isn’t helping improve your productivity.
In fact, real talk: you’re probably wasting a lot of time that you didn’t even realize you were wasting.
Or maybe you knew you were wasting it and you need someone to get honest with you.
Best tools for Productivity
1. Stop Reading Articles like this
Hey, I get it. This entire site is built around helping you live your best life, and here I am telling you not to read it?
For the love of God, stop reading articles like this expecting them to give you some magic bullet for being productive.
Because you know what you could be doing with that time?
If you’re like, but Kalyn, no, I need to read this article because I have faith you’re going to deliver some awesome tips on productivity improvement (true), then make yourself a pact that this is the last article of its kind you’re going to scroll through.
2. Accept that Nothing is Easy
Can we please stop spreading the idea that things that are “easy” are the only things worth doing?
You may have clicked on this article specifically because it said “easy,” in fact.
You want to be productive?
Whether or not these tips are easy isn’t the point.
The fact that that’s what you’re looking for is.
Productivity is working efficiently, coming up with short cuts that help in the long run, and not just always following the path of least resistance.
3. Make Hourly Goals
The best way to actually get things done is to have an idea of what you want to get done.
Without something to achieve, you just spend your time floundering and clicking around or wandering around the house.
I believe in goal setting as one of the number one ways to be productive, but it’s more than just a daily or weekly goal.
Instead, you should be setting hourly goals to help you stick to a plan.
Whether you’re cleaning the house, studying, starting a business, learning how to knit, whatever – you need to set an hourly goal (or even a smaller chunk of time) and then do everything in that hour to achieve it.
The reason this improves your productivity is because it’s so easy to leave things until the last minute.
Let’s say you had a daily goal of writing 2,000 words.
Many of us would procrastinate the day away doing stupid things like taking quizzes on what kind of bread you are and then write 2,000 words at the end of the day.
This might feel good in the sense that you achieved your goal at the end of the day like you said you would, but what about all of that wasted time in the day?
Breaking your goals down into smaller chunks can keep you focused and more accountable in your day.
If you need a great daily planner to use, I recommend this one.
4. Don’t Be Productivity Obsessed
This might seem counter intuitive in an article talking about productivity improvement, but seriously, don’t become so obsessed with being productive that you start to feel guilty for taking time off or not being on your A game all the time.
This is why I have a problem with lots of self help gurus.
They tell stories of how they wake up at 3am every morning and go to bed at 1am and haven’t had time off since 1987 and they only eat kale.
Achieving things is super fun.
But so is spending a couch day binge watching your favourite show while eating chocolate cake.
The problem for most people is that the unproductive days or moments outnumber the productive ones, but don’t make it your life’s mission to be The Most Productive Person Ever because it’s just seeking to be productive for the sake of being productive and honestly it’s boring.
5. Get Up Earlier or Stay Up Later
Despite the fact that you don’t need to completely deprive your body of sleep to be productive, a key productivity tip is to stay awake longer.
Yes, I know your bed is super comfortable and all you want to do is lie in it, but there are only 24 hours in a day and I can’t get you more, I’m sorry.
Sometimes, being more productive just requires time, and you need to figure out where in your sleeping schedule you can carve that out.
6. Use Scheduling Tools Wisely
Using tools to help you stay productive is undoubtedly useful.
But one of the most frustrating things to watch people do is waste all of their time writing to do lists, reorganizing their calendars, researching new tools to use, or trying to come up with THE best schedule possible that’s going to solve all of their productivity problems.
Before you know it, you’ve wasted an hour planning how to be productive and ironically have been unproductive.
Dont kid yourself.
Having the perfect color code or spending days researching the best productivity planner is anything but productive.
7. Define Productivity for Yourself
There are so many days that I have spent busy, but at the end of the day I hadn’t finished what I wanted to do at the beginning of the day.
There are a million things competing for our time each day, but it’s not necessarily success to get into bed at night and say “I was busy all day! I didn’t take a break!”
Well, okay, but you basically spent the whole day cleaning the bathroom, replying to emails from people that didn’t need an immediate response and researching the best productivity tools.
That chapter you wanted to write on the book you’re self publishing?
Forgotten in the quest of doing everything else besides what we know we need to do.
8. Turn Your Phone and Social Media Off
You know that “off” button on your phone that you never use anymore? I’m going to need you to press it.
Not just silence. Off.
One of the biggest killers of productivity is our insistance on distracting ourselves with our phones, the infinite Instagram scroll, texting people memes, checking Facebook to see if our friends are really as happy on that Bermuda vacation as they look.
Of course, we also need to realize that the reason we aren’t productive isn’t because of Facebook, Instagram, our phones.
The reason we aren’t productive is because of our own crap choices and lack of discipline.
But it still helps to turn off social media while we’re trying to work because who needs the temptation?
9. Identify Wasted Time and Use It
This is probably the tip that nobody wants to hear because we are comfortable in our current routines, but if you’re genuinely looking to improve your productivity, then too bad, this one’s for you.
There are plenty of moments in our day that need to be spent doing other things besides what’s on our ideal list.
Going to the doctor’s, driving to work, riding the train to work, picking the kids up from school.
It’s easy to let these moments pass and do what is expected of you – read a gossip magazine in the waiting room, listen to the radio in the carpool, or just sit in silence thinking about what you want for dinner.
Sorry, that has to come to an end.
Using your in between time towards your goals purposefully will start to add up and help you achieve.
This all depends on what you want to get done, of course.
Maybe you want to get more productive in your daily life or maybe you have some big dream, but whatever it is, you need to find ways to use this time more wisely.
For instance, listen to a podcast while on the train to work that helps you with your tasks (I have a blogging podcast I like to listen to that gives me good information during a time when I can actually just sit and listen).
If you’re at the doctor’s office waiting, bring a book that you’ve been meaning to read instead of just staring at the flu posters around the room or respond to emails on your phone that you’ve been meaning to get to.
Now, I’m not saying to shove “productige things” in every moment of your day – as I’ve mentioned, that leads to burnout and isn’t helpful.
But you’re not really living your best relaxing life sitting in the carpool lane anyway, so use it.
10. Plan Your Meals
One of the biggest time sucks for humans is figuring out what to eat three times a day.
The amount of time I’ve wasted having conversations with my husband about what were having for dinner is insane.
You’ll free your mind up if you plan your meals in advance, either by doing actual meal prep or by just making sure you have the right ingredients in the house and knowing what you’re going to eat each night for a week.
And if a week is too much, try planning a few days at a time.
I know I plan my work lunches in batches of two or three by making enough of something to last that long and bringing it a few days in a row.
Not only does this actually help free up your physical time, but it helps free up mental energy which is half the battle.
This point has more to do with delegating tasks to be done to your family or significant other (well talk about strangers later on).
I don’t care how go-getter you are, you can’t do it all on your own.
This goes for everyone – entrepreneurs, stay at home parents, caregivers, whoever.
If you’re lucky enough to have people to delegate to, use them.
Your 12 year old can make their own lunch, trust me, I’ve done it.
Make sure the roles in your daily life are split as evenly as possible between you and your significant other.
And if there are skills that you lack that you need for your business?
If anybody in your family is skilled in that area, see if they can help you pick up the slack in that area.
I’m not saying boss people around, but don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders alone.
Make sure everyone is doing their part and age appropriate chores when it comes to the kids.
I have fond memories of my dad paying us kids 1 cent each for picking up as many tree gumballs from our yard as possible.
It saved him the time and we thought we were about to win the jackpot.
12. Streamline Appointments
A lot of times, bring productive is knowing how to schedule your time, not just what you do with it.
Constantly going out and running errands or heading to meetings at random times can be a huge problem because of the time you have to spend traveling and shifting in and out of a productive mindset.
I’m a huge proponet of scheduling your things in as much of a streamline as possible.
There are some things you have no say in, of course, but put those things down and then plan around it.
If you need to be out of the house at a doctor’s appointment, do your grocery shopping in the same trip instead of going out at another time.
13. Start your day out productive
I kind of hate this one because I’m not a morning person, but I’d be much more productive if I were.
There’s something about conquering your list right away that just sets you on the right path to be more productive during the day, whether you’re working from home for a company or doing things for yourself.
It’s like if you exercise first thing in the morning – you’re more likely to keep up with eating healthy the rest of the day because you don’t want to ruin it.
“But I like rolling out of bed ten minutes before I need to get to school/work,” you say to me.
I get it, but, tough.
Start your day differently.
14. Use a Habit Tracker
If there are certain things you’re trying to more consistently implement into your routine, whether that’s meal prep or writing your new novel, they need to become habits.
You think you’re going to lose weight eating healthy two days a week?
Being consistent and building habits helps improve productivity because it becomes easier and easier for you to do the task since it’s engrained in you.
One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is to use a Habit tracker.
You can download them onto your phone, and basically they state you down when you’re being a butthead and not following through on consistently doing things.
Being intrinsically motivated is a great thing, but that’s not all of us, and if you need some accountability in the form of an electronic life coach, this is your best bet.
15. Tell another person your goals
Speaking of being extrinsically motivated, you know what can make you more productive with little work?
Actually telling someone what you’re doing and when you’re going to do it by.
Something as simple as “Hey, Mom, I’m going to call you after I clean the oven” gives you much more incentive to clean the oven in a timely manner before she throws shade at you for not doing it.
16. Outsource tasks
You can’t do it all.
Let me repeat that.
You can’t do it all.
You’re not God. You’re not the Hulk.
You’re not anything besides an average to above average human and you better start outsourcing the crap youre struggling to do it at all possible.
We talked about delegating to members of your family, but you can also consider paying people to do tasks like babysiting the kids while you have a few moments of quiet to finish painting the living room, or heck, if you can afford it, pay someone to paint the living room!
From food delivery to personal shoppers to virtual assistants who can spend mind numbing hours completing Pinterest threads for bloggers, see if you can allocate some money to outsourcing crap you don’t want to do and watch your productivity go through the roof.
17. Take a moment of meditation
Pausing what you’re doing can seem counterproductive, but productivity without focus is just busyness.
Whether you do a guided meditation or your own version of one, taking a few minutes out of the day to focus on what you want to achieve and clear your mind of the rest of the crap running through your head.
These productivity tips are not just about being busy, they’re about being mindful and staying calm when stressed.
18. Stop making excuses
If we were to get really honest with ourselves, the number of excuses we make throughout the day are staggering.
Whether you’re too tired, too hungry, too busy, too sick, too whatever (or not enough whatever), stop and think the next time you push something aside.
Sure, if your kid is bleeding out of their head and you need to take them to the hospital, you probably can’t come up with your business plan right now, but if they have swim practice?
You can definitely take a notepad and joy down a basic business plan outline while waiting to pick them up.
I hate the phrase that “you can always find time,” as it seems to suggest that we should run on 0 hours sleep and do nothing but be productive, but stop making excuses as your first step and you’ll see how you do find more time when you need it.
19. Surround yourself with productive people
If you hang around people who have no motivation and don’t get things done, it’s going to be even harder for you to be productive because, I know it sounds stupid, but we soak in the energy of those around us.
Also, some old fashioned envy at what people around you are doing is enough to spur us on sometimes, or at least convince us to go to the gym instead of watching HGTV.
20. Know when to take a break
Burnout is real.
I’m not saying this for the procrastinators out there because you do not need more breaks, but for the workaholics, you need to chill out.
Take some time off before your body and mind completely fall apart and you lose more time than you would have if you voluntarily stopped for a moment.
Particularly online entrepreneurs like bloggers feel like they need to be working every day, but I have experienced first hand what happens when you don’t slow down, and it appears by way of viruses that cling on to your sleep deprived body and burnout that makes you lose all interest in your business for weeks or months on end.
Don’t just power through life.
Know when to relax and take breaks and you’ll be far more productive overall.
21. Batch your work
Here’s a practical one.
Batch your work.
By that I mean do similar tasks at once.
For instance, if I run a shop and I need to, say, do a few different things to the t-shirts to get them ready to sell like put tags on them, ring them into the resister and fold them, many people find it faster to put tags on ALL the shirts, then ring them all up, and then fold them all.
The reason is because it’s easier to go faster when you have one repetitive task than if you are doing the three tasks on each shirt and then moving on to the next one.
22. Decide what you actually enjoy during your time off
In order to actually enjoy the time you do have off and be more productive when it comes time to work, you need to make sure you’re taking quality time off and not just scrolling through the internet.
I am so bad at following this rule, but if the most you are doing on your time off is taking BuzzFeed Quizzes, you may know what kind of sandwich you are, but you’re not really giving your mind time to relax.
I’m not saying screens are a bad way to relax.
I just think we all need to be more mindful about the “internet or social media scroll” and evaluate whether that is really helping you enjoy your time off.
23. Put on some background music
Environment can play a huge factor in productivity, and music or other “productive” sounds are a great way for many people to get things done.
Whether it’s putting on some music without words to help you study or listening to the Disney fireworks soundtrack to keep you motivated to live your dreams (me), you may be more productive if you don’t work in silence, or at least if you use music throughout the day to renew your energy.
24. Use Focusmate
Having a third party to keep us on track is a great way to guilt ourselves into working harder.
One of the tools my husband discovered when working on his business was Focusmate.
Essentially, it’s co working brought over the internet, so you get matched with someone else anywhere in the globe who is doing work at the same time as you and you briefly talk about your goals and then each work on your own tasks while keeping the Skype camera on.
It’s much easier to use your time wisely when someone else is, quite literally, watching you.
25. Be Realistic with your goals
I’m all for goal setting and think it’s absolutely necessary, but sometimes you have to make sure that the goals you’re setting are attainable even at a push rather than completely out there.
For instance, if I focused really hard, I could finish reading one full action book in a day, maybe two at most.
But I can’t read twelve books cover to cover in one day unless they’re about 10 pages each.
You probably aren’t going to be able to write 100,000 word of your novel today.
But you could write 10,000.
The problem with setting the 100,000 word goal is that you’re likely to get so overwhelmed that you don’t even start writing the 10,000.
26. Spread Household Tasks Out in the Week
If you’re reading these productivity tips to achieve something other than housework, dealing with chores around the home can be a huge time suck and quite frankly, boring.
If you’re not able to outsource these, I recommend spreading the tasks throughout the week instead of all on one huge cleaning day.
This way, your environment stays cleaner throughout the week because you’re always bettering it, and you can do tasks in short bursts or while waiting for other things, ie cleaning up the kitchen while you wait for dinner to cook.
27. Be Proactive, not reactive
Its incredibly hard to be productive when you’re not being proactive.
When our life feels like one string of reacting to things like bills and emails, getting things done becomes a slog and it’s easy to feel out of control of your life.
By being proactive in your life, you can start to learn to deal with things before they come up.
For example, instead of waiting to get renewal emails for your car insurance when it may come at a bad time for you, keep it on the yearly calendar so you know when the renewal is coming up and you can tackle it in advance with a clear head.
28. Think about your method of transportation
Whether it’s work, errands, or pleasure, thinking strategically about how you get from place to place can make a huge difference in how much you get done.
Of course there’s the obvious – pick the method that’s the fastest so you get to your destination as quickly as possible.
Think too about what you can accomplish on that method of transport.
If taking the train is twice as long as the car but you can work on your laptop for the whole time and get tasks done, then actually it’s no time “wasted” in transit.
If walking takes 30 minutes and driving takes 5 minutes, don’t immediately opt to drive if you still need to fit in your exercise for the day.
Being productive isn’t just about what you do when you’ve put aside time to work – it’s about the whole day strung together.
29. Keep the house decluttered
Clutter is pousiom to your productivity.
It’s gotten popular to declutter thanks to people like Marie Kondo but it’s not just a fad.
On one hand there’s the emotional well-being you feel when your space isn’t piled up with clutter.
It feels like you can breathe and there is space in your mind and environment for achieving things besides wading through bags of crap.
And on the other hand, it’s a very practical tip because the more time you have to spend looking for documents you need or the shoes you want to wear or whatever is time wasted.
Stop embracing your inner hoarder and clear your life out, room by room.
30. Make a list
I’ve waited long enough in this list before mentioning the most obvious but most helpful productivity tip.
WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH.
Trying to achieve something that only exists in your head and not on paper is asking your brain to hold the energy it takes to remember what you want to do AND the energy to actually do those things.
Sorry, no. You don’t have space for that.
If you think lists are constraining or boring, get over it.
Most people who say that also aren’t accomplishing much.
31. Set a Timer
Sometimes we have to trick ourselves into working on things and that’s okay.
We’re human and that means that we have flaws like crazy and often prefer to sit and watch hours of Netflix than clear out the closet we’ve been meaning to.
One way I trick myself into working is to set a timer and say I only need to focus on it until the timer goes off and then I can choose whether to continue.
Often this is about an hour or less depending on the task.
This way you also don’t have to keep checking the clock an can get really engrossed in what the task is.
Try the 20 minutes at a time if an hour seems too much for you. It’s called the Pomodoro method and you can find apps to help keep you on track.
This is great for procrastinators or others who are intimidated by the thought of working for long stretches of time.
32. Set things up the day before
The best way to be successful and productive tomorrow is to set yourself up for success the day before.
The fewer decisions you need to make, the more productive you’ll be.
This extends to lifestyle tips including picking out your clothes the day before and setting aside the things you’re going to eat for breakfast so you don’t spend precious time rummaging through the fridge.
Anything you can anticipate needing tomorrow, do as much as you can today.
33. Make a Mood board
There’s no point in being productive just to be productive.
You either want to accomplish something or you have a general lifestyle you’d like to live that includes being on top of things.
I used to think mood boards were stupid and I’m not here to tell you to manifest your thoughts into reality as much as I’m here to tell you to get your crap done, but there’s something to be said for remembering your why and living your life in an inspired way.
Whether you have a Pinterest board with your future visions or actually go old school and cut pictures out of a magazine, have something to refer to when you need a reminder of why you’re not just clowning around.
34. Train yourself to go back to being productive
You’re going to waste time.
It’s just going to happen.
You’re going to be in the middle of writing an important email and then someone is going to send you a cat video and you’re going to be on YouTube for 30 minutes watching baby animals being baby animals.
The important thing is not that you are some unfeeling robot who never gets distracted, but that you train yourself to more easily revert back to whatever you were doing.
Knowing how to manage distractions and always come back to carrying on with what you were doing is key.
It takes practice, but the more seamless you can make it, the better.
35. Develop a saving and naming system for your computer documents
There is nothing productivity destroying quite like needing to open two hundred documents named “final final” to find the final draft of a project.
I mean, this is me. I do this.
Don’t be like me. You know how I said declutter your environment?
That includes your computer files and desktop.
We accumulate so much that we don’t need, and equally the things we do need we end up saving to random folder with random names because, as I’ve said, we’re human and we’re idiots.
Fight against your idiot nature and keep your virtual life organized so your productivity relies less on the luck it takes to click into the right file.
36. Invest in a tablet
There are a lot of places we go that aren’t easye to whip out a laptop.
Sitting passenger seat in the car, at a doctor’s office, on a crowded train with little room to move as it is.
I’ve found a great solution was purchasing a tablet with internet and word processing that I can use in a lot more places than my laptop.
It’s also much much lighter and fits into most of my bags, while my laptop needs more space.
In fact, this entire article was written on a tablet on the train to make the most of my time – the editing and posting will happen on a desktop or laptop, but it’s amazing what you can get done when you have the right tools and the will to make somethimg out of your time.