Best of the Best: Top 10 Productivity Tips from Around the Web (Part II)

productivity tips from around the web part 2

….Aaaaand we’re back! Last week, we began a quick look at 10 of the best productivity tips from around the web. Today, we’re following up with our top five picks!

Enjoy, and happy…productivitying? No. Happy producing? That sounds weird. Let’s just go with:


5. Boring is Best.

Again from Chris Bailey, we have a reminder that for all of the great productivity advice out there, the best advice is also the oldest, and probably the same thing you’ve been told since you were a little kid: Eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep. As Bailey puts it:

“[A]s someone who has experimented with hundreds of techniques to better manage my time, energy, and attention over the last decade: nothing has made me more productive than eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising.”

4. Say Yes to Saying No.

There is a default in our business culture that productive people are positive go-getters always up for the next challenge. So when a superior or colleague asks if we’ll take up some task or project, our default answer is often an automatic “Yes!” But, like another automatic default we’ve talked about, always saying yes can be counterproductive. As Laura McClellan writes at Lifehack:

“When someone calls or appears at your door with a request for your participation in some activity, take a breath and consider whether it fits into your own priorities (which priorities, of course, might legitimately include keeping your boss or spouse happy). If the answer is no, then just say no.”

It’s important to remember that refusing to say no doesn’t just hurt your own productivity, it can hurt your company as well. If you are taking on more than you can reasonably manage, either the quality of your work will suffer, or your quality of life will.

And ultimately, if your quality of life is poor, your work is going to suffer, too; you’re not doing anyone any favors by biting off more than you can chew.

3. Give Yourself Some Wiggle Room.

Scheduling is obviously important to increasing productivity, but it’s important to remember that over-scheduling can be just as bad as under-scheduling: you are more likely to feel stressed out and thus decrease your productivity level if you feel like you are constantly behind.

That’s why it’s a good idea to build some wiggle room into any schedule. If a meeting or phone call should take 20 minutes, go ahead and plan out 30—that way even if it goes a little long, you won’t be playing catch up the rest of the day.

As Murray Newlands puts it over at Inc.:

If your schedule is so tight that you do not allow for the unexpected, you drastically increase your odds of feeling chaotic throughout the day[…] Leave tiny, unscheduled time blocks all through your day in order for you to have a buffer against the unexpected.

2. Make Sure that Work Aligns with Goals

Something I’ve definitely noticed in my own life is that work is more likely to feel like a drudgerous grind if I’m not really invested in the end goals.

It’s important to take stock and make sure that the work being done really does align with goals that are clearly important to you. If the work does line up, recognizing that fact is a nice motivating reminder of why it is worth doing…if the work doesn’t line up, it can help you reevaluate whether it is something you should be doing in the first place.

Chris Bailey sums it up nicely:

Productivity isn’t about how much you do, it’s about whether you achieve the outcomes that are the most important to you.

1. Remember that Work is Work. Act Accordingly.

As I’ve combed the web trying to find the best productivity tips, I’ve been very grateful that there are some really smart people giving fantastic advice—the above authors definitely included.

But I’ve also been reminded of a kid I used to tutor many years ago. He loved the idea of maximizing efficiency and coming up with the perfect study plan, relished the opportunity of inventing an absolutely brilliant plan of attack for every essay, every test, every workbook assignment…

In other words, he didn’t like studying and much preferred spending our time together talking about studying.

Which I get. Talking about studying is way easier than actually studying. But, ultimately, what really matters for a test is whether or not you know the material, and for that goal, studying is best.

Work is work. Sometimes it feels hard, or you’d rather do something else. Acknowledging this is worthwhile, and taking breaks and building time into your day for other things is definitely important.

But at the end of the day, it is very rare that 100% of every meaningful activity is going to feel meaningful when broken down into its constituent parts. Some of it will feel like a slog, but that’s only because it will in fact be a slog. And that’s okay. Not everything has to be fun. By keeping goals in mind, by building buffer time into your day and eliminating some of the less necessary work by automating tasks and learning to say no, you will have the stores of energy and focus to get through the work that, while it may not be fun, does form part of a meaningful whole.

And that is something worth working toward.

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