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How many times have you uttered something along the lines of, “ I don’t have enough time to do that”? Personally, I used to say it almost every single day and I know so many others who do too. A couple of years ago, the fact that every person has the same amount of hours in a day finally hit me. I needed to understand why, despite having the same amount of time, some people managed to be so productive and I was left feeling drowned in my to-do list.
I spent hours searching for time management and productivity tips on Google and Pinterest.
Initially, I struggled to implement all the ideas and tips and tricks I came across. Everything seemed like a good idea but very few things actually worked for my own life. As much as I wanted to believe the current hyped up app or planner everyone was talking about was going to help me, it just didn’t.
During my search for productivity tips and more intentional living in general, I started to come across some really successful people in the “change your life” industry. People Like Mel Robbins, Jim Kwik, Brendon Burchard, Rachel Hollis, and Tom Bilyeu just to name a few. It was watching and listening to successful people like this that changed the way I viewed time. I learned to be more productive, but most importantly, I came to understand the core of productivity.
The Mindset Lesson I Learned About Productivity
I’m beginning to fully see that everything in life boils down to your mindset. As many people do, I lived by the idea that productivity simply meant the more you get done, the more productive you are.
I created mile-long to-do lists for myself and then measured my productivity level based on how many things I got crossed off; not how relevant the tasks were to the bigger picture I was aiming towards.
In short, I equated being busy with being productive.
Ironically, I spent countless days running around attempting to do everything I thought needed to get done. By the end of the day, I didn’t feel like I did anything productive. It was exhausting physically, emotionally, and mentally.
All of this was done on autopilot. I never really stopped to think about any of it. I just kept going and going, because I thought that’s what one was supposed to do.
The biggest of the productivity tips I can give you is simple – be more intentional with your time.
Being more productive with your time is about living intentionally.
The day I started to feel more productive was the day I stopped running on autopilot and instead, took a step back to review what I was doing. I began to question the importance of the tasks. Changing my thoughts and habits around how I was productive was the key to real productivity for me.
I realize the idea that increased productivity is directly related to intentional living may sound a little foreign. So, below I put together the list of nine productivity tips that help me stay on the right path and will hopefully help you too!
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9 Productivity Tips For Better Time Management
Planning Productivity Tips
Before I stopped running on autopilot all the time, I had never set any intentions for how I wanted to live my life. It wasn’t something I had ever even thought about doing.
In fact, I didn’t really understand at all how “planning” for everyday life circumstances was even possible and I definitely didn’t see what it had to do with productivity.
As it turns out, aside from actually accomplishing tasks, it proved to be one of the most important things I have ever done for my productivity levels.
The first step to planning is prioritizing which essentially gives you clarity and sets boundaries for go-to responses. When you have set parameters that you have decided to function within, it minimizes decision-making time and saves time because it keeps you from doing things that are a waste of time for you personally.
The second step is adding a new layer to your self-awareness. By learning more about yourself and how you function, you can hone in on your best productivity points.
The third part of planning is preparing for a productive day.
Planning things the way I lay out below helped me go from being reactive to responsive in life.
Getting clarity on what was important to me in life and what wasn’t was honestly life-changing. There were a number of big and little things I consistently did, pretty much on autopilot that it turned out wasn’t important to me. I did them because that’s what everyone did; it’s what I had always done.
When I finally stopped to get clarity on my priorities, it was mind-blowing how much time I spent doing things that didn’t actually matter to me. What’s worse is that some things that were important to me, I never made time for because I was too busy doing the things I thought were important.
Growing up I watched my mom meal plan and make all our food from scratch. It was wonderful and normal and what I wanted for myself, or so I thought. Josh and I got married shortly after college and I proceeded to meal plan and cook and bake everything from scratch. Countless hours were spent in the kitchen. Sadly, Josh worked super long hours and was rarely home. As it turns out, I hated spending so many hours cooking full meals I usually ended up eating alone. It also turned out, Josh didn’t care about any of it either. He was just as happy with mac n’ cheese as he was with a fancy pot roast.
I have since ditched the labor-intensive meals for simpler ones and am so much happier. It’s cleared up time for other things that are more important to me.
Learning to Prioritize
It was difficult for me to figure out what was important to me at first.
I did a lot of work on my own by asking myself questions such as:
- Does this matter to me personally or am I doing it out of habit?
- Why am I doing it?
- Does it align with my values?
- Who does it benefit?
- What does the task cost me? Time, energy, money?
- Is it worth it?
- Repercussions of not doing it?
Asking these kinds of questions really helped me step out of autopilot and become more intentional with my actions.
Eventually, I got some guidance on taking a deeper dive into my values with the Values + Vision course from Jennifer over at Simply + Fiercely. It was an amazing course that helped me get deeper clarity on things in my life I didn’t even realize were values.
I’ve heard some people say that they felt guilty about saying no to things in the beginning. Especially, when they felt like people expected things from them, but if you don’t want to do something or feel it’s important to you, then you’re wasting your time.
You’re not truly being productive for yourself. Maybe for someone else and maybe helping them falls on your important list, in which case go for it. Just make sure you aren’t doing things that don’t matter to you or make a difference if you’re going to spend your time on it. Remember, getting something done doesn’t always mean you’re being productive, it just means you’re staying busy.
2) Know Your Personal Most Productive Hours
When Josh and I were first married, it was difficult to match our schedules. We slept at different times, wanted to eat at different times, and struggled to find the “right time” to have deeper conversations about life stuff.
We thought it entirely boiled down to needing to work on our communication and adjust to the married life. Josh didn’t understand why I couldn’t go to bed until 11 pm and got up at 7 am and I didn’t understand how he went to bed at 9 pm and woke up at 5 am without an alarm. He thought I was lazy and I thought he was uptight. We laugh about it now, but it wasn’t so funny at the time.
Thankfully, shortly into our marriage, we came across a book called The Power of When by Dr. Michael Breus. In the book, Dr. Breus explains how every single person has a biological master clock their brain and body functions on, called Chronotypes.
Essentially, there are optimal times of day you are creative, need to eat, sleep, ask for a raise, and so much more. Discovering our individual chronotypes, enabled us to plan our day according to when we are the most productive doing a specific task.
Understanding our optimal functioning times have changed a lot for us. For example, I now write during my most creative timeframe and I produce double the content I would have during a different time of day.
Becoming aware of your most optimal times of day to do specific tasks is high on my productivity tips list because it’s simple to adjust and can make a huge impact. Sometimes the biggest impact comes from the smallest adjustments.
3) Prepare For the Day With a Good Morning Routine
Everywhere I turn, I see something about creating a morning routine. People go bananas over it. I’ve seen mega-long blog posts and countless YouTube videos on it. I’ve even seen a hundred dollar courses teaching you how to put one together.
They pretty much all say things like, get up at 5 am, workout, read, and meditate. The first time I read some of the things (mainly getting up at 5 am), I just couldn’t see myself doing it. I was a 7 am kind of person. But I knew I wanted a change and the number one commonality I saw amongst the list of successful people I listed above, was a morning routine. So I started out small – created a short morning routine that consisted of reading, journaling, hydrating, and my favorite playlist.
I saw a big difference in how my day went and started progressively making more changes to my routine. I got up a few minutes earlier to add a new habit, found the right prompted journal for me, and eventually crafted a morning routine that made me feel like I was starting every day off already winning.
Everything changed for me and my productivity skyrocketed.
As the now popular saying goes, “if you win the morning, you win the day.”
Related Post: 9 Morning Routine Habits of Successful People
Method Productivity Tips
As with anything, planning is a pivotal point of success but no amount of planning will do any good if your method for taking action isn’t effective.
These are my favorite and most effective method productivity tips to get stuff done.
4) Only Pick 3-4 Big Things
A couple of years ago, if you looked at one of my daily to-do lists, it would have had about 20 things listed out on it. I would be on the go all day long trying to mark them all off and feel terrible at the end of the day if I didn’t get them finished.
Don’t forget, I thought getting more done meant being more productive. Running around like that spreading my time over a hundred different things didn’t really make me more productive in the long run though.
A study found it takes someone 15 minutes to get into a zone or flow. Each interruption or distraction breaks that flow and the 15 minutes to get back into the zone starts over. Knowing this, it’s not a surprise that trying to do 20 different things in one day never led to as much productivity as I wanted it to.
These days, I pick three or four big tasks to do a day and really focus in on those. Which leads me to my next point.
5) Time Block
Have you ever heard about Parkinson’s Law? It basically means that you will stretch a task to match whatever time frame you have. Most of us did this in school. If you had two weeks to write a paper, it took you two weeks. If you had three days to write it, you got it written in three days. We tend to function according to whatever the set time frame is.
Which is where time blocking really comes in handy. Setting a blocked amount of time to work on a task allows you to get into the zone and really provide an opportunity to be super productive. (source)
Often, if I am writing new content for work, I will set a timer for two hours, turn on my playlist to help me get into a flow, and shut out all distractions.
I work towards outcomes and not just busyness. When I get into the zone, know exactly how much time I have for a task, and don’t get distracted, I get as much done in an hour as it would previously take me tI used to in about four hours.
The last thing to land on my list of method productivity tips is to batch like type work. This goes back to being in the zone or finding a workflow.
When you are already in a flow, you get things done quicker and easier. So, it makes complete sense that if you have something you need to do on a regular basis, if you can work ahead and get it done all at once, it’ll go faster.
Batching works great for work stuff but I use it in my personal life too. One of my favorite things to batch is my grocery shopping.
I buy all my groceries in two-week segments instead of going to the store every few days. I will sit down, and meal plan out all my meals and snacks for two weeks. It’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. I can reuse meal plans and we only eat the same meal twice in one month. Once I’m done, I’ll make a list of all the groceries I need and then when I go to the store, I get everything, and I’m done.
In the long run, it saves me a lot of hours and money to not have to drive to the store every couple of days. I go once, get everything I need, and go home.
Extra Productivity Tips
In addition to my planning and method for being more productive, there are a few extra productivity tips that have made a big difference and that I use daily.
While all the productivity tips I’ve given you up to this point are really great, there’s also a lot of little things that come up on life that need some attention.
That’s where these extra tips come into play.
7) Only Touch Things Once
I’m pretty sure I heard this one from Rachel Hollis once and holy cow, it changed things for me. I was notorious for putting things off until later. An email would pop up and I would plan to get back to it later, I hit the save for later button on Facebook posts in my feed 10 times a day, and I was always adding little things to a future task list.
When I started applying the “only touch things once” rule, my productivity went up and my stress went down. Personally, every time I put something off until later, I feel anxious about remembering to get back to it. I always feel like I have a million little things I need to do hanging over my head.
I hate feeling this way which is why I love this tip! Plus, it’s a super simple thing to implement.
A few easy ways to use it:
- Batch your email checking and either reply, delete, or actively respond immediately.
- If someone asks you do do something, respond yes or no immediately. If it’s not a “heck yes” it’s a “no”.
- Set aside a time block to look at social media. Don’t check it a hundred times a day.
- If you’re at the store and there’s something you’re going to buy later and you have the money, get it then. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought “I’ll come back later for it”. Like I literally planned to return just for that item later for no reason.)
8) Multi-Task Only Sometimes
I used to pride myself on being able to multitask. I would watch tv and write a paper and carry on a conversation or watch funny YouTube videos all at the same time and think I was doing just fine.
As it turns out, multitasking doesn’t really provide extra productivity. Studies have found that it actually can decrease productivity by 40% and even impair the brains cognitive processes. (source)
Focus is a big key to productivity. So now, I only multitask when something doesn’t require much focus.
For instance, I’ll watch Netflix while I fold laundry or listen to an audiobook while doing the dishes. Long gone are the days when I try to spread my attention and focus across four or five things at a time.
I never thought doing less would make me more productive but not only am I more productive, I feel less scattered brain and all over the place. My mind literally feels calmer and more stable.
So if you find yourself running around feeling crazy, try centering yourself in just one or two tasks at a time. Frankly, it was a difficult transition to make at first, but so totally worth it in the long run. Even if only for the calmness my mind feels now.
9) Have Downtime
You know, I previously thought I needed to be on the go every moment of every day or I would never get everything I needed or wanted to get done in life accomplished.
It was exhausting and left me feeling burnt out but I was scared to stop for fear of losing hold of everything. I expertly shifted from one task to the next day after day. I looked at “down time” as something else on my task list.
Watch movie with Josh. Check. Read a chapter of this novel before bed. Check. Call my Grandma. Check.
I was always on the go. Never still, never calm, never really at rest.
Then, awhile back Josh suggested we take a day off every week. Every Sunday we just focus on us and we don’t do any work. I have to admit, I panicked a tiny bit.
“How will I manage to get everything done??”
Then I remembered that I am the one who decides what “everything” is. You are too.
You decide what is important to do, plan for it, time block it and accomplish it, and you decide if being rested and not burnt out is a priority. Because when you are rested, you have more energy to be productive for the rest of the week.
When you establish your priorities, plan and accomplish them during the days you work, and then decide to recharge, I promise you, you can get more of what matters done, in less time. It’s kind of amazing.
My greatest hope is that I’ve helped you see that being productive doesn’t necessarily mean getting more done. It means getting more of what matters done and doing that starts with being more intentional.
I also hope the productivity tips I’ve laid out help you make even just one small adjustment that changes things for you. I’ve found that it’s the small things that have the ability to change our lives in unexpected ways. Maybe more than the big momentous events ever will.
If you’re super intentional about creating your most productive life ever, I suggest checking out the 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months. It’s a pretty in-depth tool that can enable you to take action in your life in a way you haven’t before.
Do you have any favorite productivity tips or resources? Tell me about them in the comment box below!