Being productive isn't always an easy feat. For some people, it comes easy. But, for others, it can be difficult — especially when it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day. Or when you feel like you're trying to be productive yourself and keep your team on top of their game.
But there are some steps you can follow to help you boost efficiency and get your work done. You'll feel a lot better once you start checking off that to-do list, too! Check out these productivity tips from leaders past and present.
50 unique productivity tips
Here are 50 unique productivity tips to help you make the most of each and every day ahead.
1. Set goals.
2. Make a plan.
“The main thing is to wake up and try to engage your mind. What are you thinking about? What are you doing? How do you create that process of going forward? What’s my plan, even if I have to adjust it? I get up and create my list of tasks for the day.” — Doug DeVos, President of Amway via The Future Organization
3. Get creative.
"Creativity isn't just reserved for artists or culinary geniuses, it can and should be used by management and leadership teams to help strengthen culture, develop new campaigns. Once our team settled into the new norm of weekly Zoom calls, social-distanced meetings, and bouncing marketing ideas off of our families and neighbors, productivity and creative levels shot through the roof." — Scott Taylor, President and COO of Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux via Inc
4. Get the tough stuff out of the way first.
“One productivity tip I’ve always loved is ‘eat the frog’ — which means tackling the most challenging, or least favorite task, first thing in the day.” – John Furneaux, CEO of Hive
5. Set clear expectations.
“Set clear expectations and revisit them often. No need to waste time on the issue of whether expectations are being met or not. Outline expectations and check-in for 10 minutes every two weeks. This is a two-way street. Team members need to know expectations of them, and also of you as their leader.” — John Fieldly, CEO of Celsius, via Entrepreneur
6. Balance work and life.
“During COVID-19, I believe the myth of work-life balance has been exposed. It’s forced me to include the personal side of colleagues’ lives into the equation. By being forced to be remote, the personal side of check-ins has become crucial to understanding one another’s worlds, perspectives, and optimal ways to work.” Jay Sharman, Founder and CEO of TeamWorks Media, via Entrepreneur
7. Shut down at a reasonable time.
“I spend most of the day on video conferences, but I try to squeeze in a run beforehand if I can. If you’re dealing with a global time zone situation, maybe the better option is to shut down at a reasonable time and go for a run in the evening.” — Tiger Tyagarajan, CEO of Genpact via The Future Organization
8. Review your diary at the day's end.
9. Regularly check in with your team.
“I’m not sure there is one go-to strategy for increasing productivity, however, we’ve benefited when we focus on breaking down results into digestible, attainable component pieces. While easier said than done, goal-setting and regularly scheduled check-ins to address green/yellow/red progress are helpful in surfacing obstacles on the journey.” — Jay Sharman, Founder and CEO of TeamWorks Media, via Entrepreneur
10. Welcome ideas.
“We will succeed in the digital era only if we engage with enthusiasm and welcome the ideas and opportunities that digital tools, data analysis, and new technologies will bring.” — Christian Ulbrich, President and CEO of JLL via The Future Organization
11. Foster curiosity.
“Foster curiosity,” Sarah Apgar, CEO and founder of FitFighter via Entrepreneur. “Every question and every conversation is an opportunity to get better. Call team members out to ask questions upon every gathering. Require the team to have inquiring minds and set this example yourself.”
12. Control the process.
"Work is a process, and the whole process has to be controlled. To make work productive, therefore, it requires the construction of appropriate controls for the work process."— Mark Zuckerberg via HEFLO
13. Get to know yourself.
“Understand how your brain works and when you are most productive. For me, I’ve gotten rid of lunch meetings to keep my productive time going as long as I can.” – Ryan Smith, CEO and co-founder of Qualtrics via Hive
14. Understand when you're being a perfectionist.
"Perfect is the enemy of good." — Voltaire via HEFLO
15. Take care of your employees.
"Start with good people, set the rules, communicate, motivate and reward your employees. If you do all these things effectively, you can’t go wrong." — Lee Lacocca via HEFLO
16. Refocus your mentality.
“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” - Tim Ferriss, American Podcaster, Author and Entrepreneur via TameDay
17. Check in with people you care about.
“A lot of people are struggling with where things are right now — maybe they have a family member who’s ill or they’re a parent and their kids are at home. Across the board, many people are struggling, and it’s really important to be conscientious of that. I recommend you find a time to be able to check in with people at a personal level.” — Business Author Julie Zhuo via The Future Organization
18. Tackle the biggest beasts first.
“Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.” Dale Carnegie, American writer via TameDay
19. Make deals with yourself.
“If you don’t want to do something, make a deal with yourself to do at least five minutes of it. After five minutes, you’ll end up doing the whole thing.” – Kevin Systrom, Co-Founder of Instagram via Hive
20. Be honest with yourself.
“You can fool everyone else, but you can’t fool your own mind.” — David Allen, Author and Productivity Consultant via TameDay
21. Shoot your moon shots.
“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.” — Franz Kafka, writer via TameDay
22. Pass messages along.
“What’s instead imperative is to move more of this work out of your inbox and into other systems that better support efficient execution. You can’t, in other words, avoid this work, but you can find better alternatives to simply passing messages back and forth in an ad hoc manner throughout the day.” – Cal Newport, Writer, Author, and Professor via Hive
23. Put in the effort.
“Sometimes, things may not go your way, but the effort should be there every single night.” Michael Jordan, American Basketball Pro via TameDay
24. Stop thinking; just do.
"If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” — Bruce Lee, actor via TameDay
25. Check your calendar.
“The first thing I do before I go to bed is look at the following day or maybe the next two or three on my calendar. I check in with my schedule and assess the hard landscape… being external commitments that I have” – David Allen, Founder of GTD Method via Hive
26. Trust that the process may just take some time.
“No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” — Warren Buffett, American Investor via TameDay
27. Make the most of every minute.
“Lost time is never found again.” — Benjamin Franklin via TameDay
28. Learn to say no.
“Saying ‘I don’t have time’ really means ‘it’s not a priority.' If someone offered you a ton of cash to do whatever you claim you don’t have time for…you’d probably find the time! So it’s not about time. It’s that it hasn’t risen up your priority list enough…and that is FINE. Plenty of things may sound good in theory but aren’t right for right now in practice. Embrace that reality and you can take back control of your time.” – Laura Vanderkam, Author and Productivity Professional via Hive
29. Be orderly.
“Life is too complicated not to be orderly.” — Martha Stewart via Successful By Design
30. Do more than just prepare.
“There’s a tendency to mistake preparation for productivity. You can prepare all you want, but if you never roll the dice you’ll never be successful.” — Shia LaBeouf, Actor, via Successful By Design
31. Make a habit out of doing things the right way.
“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” — Vince Lombardi via Successful By Design
32. Get more sleep.
“When we take time to sleep, recharge we are more effective as entrepreneurs, as leaders,” Huffington says. “Our cognitive performance improves. We make better decisions. We are less reactive. We get less upset when bad things happen.” –Ariana Huffington, CEO and founder of Thrive Global, former co-founder of The Huffington Post via Hive
33. Do what you know.
“It’s not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.” — Tony Robbins via Successful By Design
34. Question your busy-ness.
“It is not enough to be busy… The question is: What are we busy about?” — Henry David Thoreau via Successful By Design
35. Wake up early and create healthy habits.
“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom” — Aristotle via Successful By Design
36. Finish one task at a time.
“In order to do the best job I can, I like to finish one task at a time so it gets my full attention. If you don’t set your schedule, boundaries and expectations from the start, people are going to take advantage of you. So it’s important to be mindful of what your boundaries are and how to message them to others.” — Karen Edgar, HBO Program Manager at WarnerMedia via Hive
37. Embrace the impossible.
"While it may feel like you can never catch up, it is possible. It just takes proper time management skills. You need to make time for what’s most important — including continuing to learn and hone your leadership skills. Becoming great at time management takes a lot of practice. Here are some practical things you can implement to save time: Avoid multitasking. This is actually a time-waster. Play to your strengths. Stop wearing all the hats in your organization. Just wear the one that looks the best on you. Do what you are good at and only what you are good at. Get organized. Being scattered is a definite time-waster. This needs to be at both a physical and technological level. You don’t have time to find lost files, data or information. Schedule to reschedule. Sit down once a week and plan the next seven days. Ensure when you do this that you leave enough time to do what needs to get done. And as the leader of a business, you have a responsibility to be spending time learning new skills and working on innovation with your organization, so schedule that time too. If things don’t work this week, give them more time next week." — Nick Leighton, Forbes Councils Member for Forbes
38. Listen to good advice and pass it on to your team.
“The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.” — Oscar Wilde, Irish Writer via TameDay
39. Automate manual tasks.
“One of our core values at Zapier is ‘Don’t be a Robot, Build the Robot.’ No matter your role, you’ll find yourself doing repetitive, low-value work. Automating your manual tasks is one of the best ways to increase your productivity, outsize your impact, and stay focused on high-value work.” – Wade Foster, CEO at Zapier via Hive
40. Take risks.
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” — Muhammad Ali, American Professional Boxer via TameDay
41. Start somewhere.
“Action is the foundational key to all success.” — Picasso via TameDay
42. Turn off at some point.
“Turn off everything — email, phone, stock tickers, news, etc.—as often as possible and focus on a single task without interruption.” – Dianne McKeever, Co-Founder and Chief Investment Officer at Ides Capital via Hive
43. Learn to turn things down.
"Sorry. There are no hidden strategies for this one. The best way to say no is to actually say no to things that distract and do not serve your larger objectives." — Nick Leighton, Forbes Councils Member for Forbes
44. Give your team the resources they need to be productive.
"You cannot mandate productivity, you must provide the tools to let people become their best." – Steve Jobs via HEFLO
45. Respond as you can.
“I would rather give a short, quick, incomplete answer than wait and do it better.” — Sheryl Sandberg via Hive
46. Strive to add value.
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein via TameDay
47. Commit to being productive.
"Productivity is never an accident. It’s always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort." – Paul J. Meyer via HEFLO
48. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
"I can’t encourage this enough. Your time is valuable. You must start looking at it in terms of dollar signs. If you’re still doing mundane tasks and holding daily processes on your plate because you’re worried they won’t be done as well as you can do them, get over it! Trust your team, and find some contractors you can trust as well. Spend your time being productive as a leader and helping your business to grow. For example, imagine you have two things that need to be done now — one can be delegated, and one you have to do in person. First, delegate the job that can be delegated. That frees up your concentration and allows them to work on it, while you deal with the in-person task." — Nick Leighton, Forbes Councils Member for Forbes
49. Take the time to reflect.
"After effective action, start a silent reflection. From silent reflection, an even more effective action will come." — Peter F. Drucker via HELFO
50. Organize your week by the day.
“On Monday, I focus on management — we have our directional meeting at Square and our opcom [operations committee] meeting at Twitter. I do my management one-on-ones that day. Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is marketing and communication and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships and Friday is the company and culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off. I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, and strategy.” – Jack Dorsey, CEO Twitter and Square for Hive
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.