How to Stay Productive

Staying productive and inspired when the motivation is gone can be really tough. After all, inspiration doesn’t last forever. It can be doubly hard to stay productive and work at something when it’s not something we want to do, to boot. Work is a great example of this; even though money is a great motivator, it can still be hard to hit the grindstone when it’s an unpleasant task.

Fortunately, there are many strategies out there you can use to bolster your inspiration when the going gets tough. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the most useful strategies among them. Most of the best ways to stay productive involve little tips and tricks that you can employ throughout the day, but there are some useful lifestyle and habit changes you can make to boost your productivity, too.

Productivity Tips

There are many, many little things you can do or change in your day that will help you feel more productive. Some of these things might work with your schedule and your lifestyle, and some might not. Fortunately, though, there are so many available that most anyone will be able to find something that suits them!

Maximize Your Commute

Your morning commute is an area of your day that has a lot of potential. For those of us that commute to work by car or work from home, our options are a bit more limited. However, if you make use of public transportation, the time you spend on the taxi, train, or bus can be used for many productive things.

If you drive to work every day, consider downloading an audiobook or podcast to listen to while you drive. Podcasts and audiobooks can range from educational to downright comedic, and rather than surfing the radio and listening to talk show chatter, you could be learning something new about investing, educating yourself about a part of your job that you’re unfamiliar with, or virtually anything else.

If you take the train or bus to work, however, you really do have an open block of time to do whatever you want with. While it may be understandable to use your commuting time to nap or catch up on work when you’ve been particularly busy, when you have the time, try filling these times with other activities like:

  • Reading a book, especially an educational one
  • Writing a blog post or article
  • Writing in a diary
  • Drawing
  • Researching things that fascinate you
  • Learning new skills to get ahead at work
  • Following up on phone calls or making appointments

If you work from home, your options are quite a bit more limited, but you can still make use of your time on public transport or in the car when you go to the grocery store or otherwise go out on the town.


Believe it or not, exercising at regular intervals is very necessary for maintaining a good state of focus and productivity. The interval that works best for you might not be the same as your neighbor, so keep this in mind, but if you’re feeling distracted or like you’ve hit a wall, take a minute to stand up, walk to the bathroom, or even take a quick five-minute walk. You might be surprised by how much this can boost your productivity and reign in your focus.

However, take care not to follow a specific schedule of exercise just for the sake of doing so. Different experts recommend getting up and moving around at regular intervals, but if you’re in the “zone,” don’t sacrifice it just for the sake of maintaining your schedule. In the same way, don’t turn exercising into something you do every five minutes, either, as this can have the opposite effect on your productivity.

Plan Your Day

Before you go to work in the morning, make sure to plan out what you need to do with your day. You can do this the night before if you want, as well. Having a clear idea of what you want and need to get done will streamline your efforts, helping you to waste less time sifting through various tasks and deciding what’s most important.

Of course, emergencies will pop up from time to time and you may need to change your plans at the last minute, but if your job allows for it, try to keep a to-do list of what you need to get done in a given day. If you can’t plan out the whole day, just write a few of the most essential things on the list. Alternatively, you can keep a running to-do list that you add to every day if that suits your working life better.

Knowing what you need to do the morning of or the night before helps you mentally prepare and might even help you think about potential solutions. If your brain has time to think about an issue or problem, you might stumble across a fix that you might have never thought of in a shorter timeframe.

Quit Multitasking

Many people operate under the common misconception that multitasking makes you more productive. However, according to many studies that have been done on the subject, this isn’t actually true. Multitasking divides your focus and forces you to alternate between several different tasks, which affects your focus and wastes valuable seconds of your time.

With all the stimuli we have aimed at us on a daily basis, such as phone calls, texts, emails, and other notifications, it makes sense that we’re used to dividing our attention. However, if you want to be at your most productive, it’s important that you resist this urge.

There are myriad reasons to avoid multitasking, not the least of which being because it tends to hinder your productivity. Other things to consider include are:

  • Worsens performance of the tasks you’re multitasking at
  • Fatigues your brain and drains your energy
  • Causes more stress than single-tasking
  • Single-tasking can actually make your brain healthier

Single-tasking is just better for your brain overall than multitasking is. Where multitasking fatigues your brain, single-tasking actually makes it healthier, and it improves the quality of your work. Even though it can be hard to resist multitasking, it’s best to try to single-task whenever you can.

Avoid Your Vices

A little bit of self-control can go a long way in boosting your productivity. Even though it’s tempting to take a break to browse social media or send an email in the middle of your workday, resist the urge to do so. If you must take a break, it’s better to use it to visit the bathroom or take a short walk to get your mind back on track.

If you absolutely must take a short break to check in to social media – perhaps as a reward for finishing a tough project – make sure to time yourself and keep it short. Set an alarm if you must. Social media can be a “black hole” for your time and your productivity, so it’s best to cut it out of your workday altogether. It’s better to keep your workday for work only and to save your guilty pleasures for after hours.


We all know that stress can make you feel sluggish and unhappy, but did you know it can measurably impact your productivity, too? Stress is an interesting phenomenon because a small amount of stress can actually be beneficial for your productivity, but a large amount of stress can kill your productivity altogether.

Think about how you can really get “in the zone” when a deadline for a project or presentation is coming up. The stress from an impending deadline or an important event can improve the quality of your work, help you work faster, and help you focus, too. However, when you know you won’t finish something before the deadline, you tend to freak out instead, right? This is stress at work!

As long as you manage your time well, you can take advantage of the beneficial effects of stress, but whether you end up on the good side or bad side of stress depends on that. Also, be careful of toeing deadlines; while working with beneficial stress can feel good, be careful not to venture too close to those deadlines, lest you risk cutting things too close.

Additionally, consider that turning things in right at the deadline every time can be detrimental to your performance in certain cases. Some companies or job positions expect you to go above and beyond what’s asked of you, and turning things in before or even well before their deadlines will reflect better on you than adhering to deadlines would.

Although a little bit of work-related stress can be beneficial for your productivity, keeping your stress levels otherwise low is a good idea to maintain your physical, mental, and emotional health. After a difficult day at work (or even at home), it’s important that you relax some of that stress away so that you can go back into work refreshed and ready to give it your all.

There are many little things you can do to melt away stress, and some of the most effective options are:

  • Meditate
  • Create a post-work ritual to wind down
  • Listen to music
  • Treat yourself (i.e., with a warm bath, a glass of wine, your favorite dessert, etc. Do this in moderation, though!)
  • Vent to someone else

White Noise

For some people, having background noise like music, white noise, or the television on during work can actually be beneficial for their concentration. However, this is not for everyone; some people are distracted by background noise rather than helped by it. Test out some different types of background noise to see if they beneficially affect your concentration.

Some kinds of background noise are more effective than others for this. For example, music without words or jarring noise sequences tends to be the best for concentration. White noises like nature sounds, rain, or other unobtrusive sounds can benefit your productivity, too. While many people like to have the TV on for background noise and presence, this can be a slippery slope, as the television can be a source of distraction, too.

Any background noise that has people talking or loud, sudden noises can be distracting to the brain. However, if you’re used to an office setting with people talking constantly, you might be mostly immune to these distractions. Even if you feel like these noises don’t affect you, try listening to a less obtrusive source of background noise through headphones and see if it actually boosts your productivity!


Workplace comfort is something that can be overlooked often when looking for ways to boost productivity. Think about it, though: if you’re preoccupied with how uncomfortable your chair is all day, every day, you’re not going to do as much good work as you could be doing if you were in a comfortable chair.

For this reason, it’s important that you keep your own comfort in mind while you’re at work. If you work a desk job, this means having a comfortable chair and a desk that’s well within reach. This might mean an ergonomic mouse and keyboard, too, if you use those tools often. However, if you’re on your feet all day, this might mean comfortable, supportive shoes and potentially even support braces.

Be Prepared

When you don’t have the materials you need on hand at work, it takes away from the time you have to get things done. As such, if you need anything for your day tomorrow, you should get everything ready the night before if you don’t have it at your work station already. You don’t want to spend an hour searching for a certain type of paper when you’re working on an important assignment during the workday.

Your preparedness extends to other aspects of your job, as well. When you’re prepared for what’s going on during your day, you’ll see a lot of extra benefits, including:

  • Feeling more confident about your day and your tasks
  • Easier transitions between tasks when all the materials are handy and available
  • More strategic thinking
  • Increased flexibility
  • Lower likelihood for failure

Create an Office

We’ve already talked about keeping work separate from home in this article, and an excellent way to do that is to create an office if you don’t have one. If you already work in an office, that’s excellent; you’ve already completed this step! However, if you don’t already have an office, try to make or rent one. If you have the funds to rent an office space, you can try that, or you can set up a work area at home instead.

Having a space that’s specifically meant for work is an excellent cue for your body and mind to be productive. When you sit down at your desk and pull out your notebook or turn on your computer, that’s your cue to tune in to work-related problems and discipline yourself until you’re done or ready for a break.

Slow Down

Slowing down might feel like the opposite of what you should be doing when you’re trying to increase your productivity. However, work (and productivity) is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes, it’s more beneficial to slow down, think, and reevaluate than it is to rush through and risk doing sub-par work.

Anyone who does delicate or specialized work knows that taking time and care with your work is important. While there is a time and place to work quickly – if you’re familiar with your mastery of the subject matter, for example – you’ll often find yourself doing better work if you take your time.

Lifestyle Changes

Sometimes, there are little things that you can change in your everyday routine that can help you squeeze just a little more productivity out of it. These changes might not seem like much, but if you follow through with them, you’ll notice a difference. What’s more, if you can manage to work with several of them at a time, you’ll see some really impressive results!

Wake Up Earlier

The idea of waking up any earlier in the day might make your stomach turn. To be fair, waking up before the alarm isn’t for everyone, especially if you have trouble resisting the urge to hit your snooze button anyway. However, if you can fight the urge to sleep in, giving yourself just ten or fifteen more minutes in the morning can provide you with a myriad of benefits, such as:

  • Taking your time while getting ready
  • Time to eat a healthy breakfast
  • More time to plan your day
  • Time to wake up slowly and calmly

If you’re really an overachiever or someone who thrives on challenging yourself, consider waking up several hours before you normally would. Doing this gives you some time for peace in the morning that’s uninterrupted by work, other people, or emergencies. It’s a great time to relax, contemplate the biggest things on your plate for the day, and just enjoy some time to yourself.

Keep Work at Work

It’s often very tempting to take your work home with you in order to get more done or take care of certain issues, but unless it’s absolutely necessary, resist the urge to do this. Bringing your work problems into your home creates a lot of issues for you, not the least of which is decreased productivity.

When you make work time while you’re at work, your mind and body know that your time in the office or on a job site is your time to be productive. Your home, however, doesn’t have the same association (unless you work from home, which is a very different animal).

What’s more, bringing your work problems into your home life sets you up for more stress and more disturbances. As soon as you make the choice to bring your work home with you, it will continue to follow you. Coworkers will call you for assistance or backup if they know you’re available at home, or you’ll develop the habit of saying, “I can just finish this at home.”

It’s better for your mind and body to keep your work at work. When you keep your work at work, you confine the stress to work, as well. If you mix work with your home life, your home turns into a place of stress, too, rather than a place of peace and relaxation. People who work from home can deal with this by working only at certain times or only “working” when they sit down at their computer.

Hold Yourself Accountable

For many people, accountability plays a bit part in handing in work on time and managing their time well. When you hold yourself accountable, you use deadlines and the expectations of other people depending on you to keep your work going at a steady, productive pace.

There’s a reason why people often describe themselves as “deadline-oriented;” some people find it hard to work if they don’t have a deadline forcing them to pace themselves properly. If you’re deadline-oriented, setting deadlines for yourself may be enough, or you might need to get someone else involved. As easy as it is to set your own deadlines, it can be just as easy to break them, as well.

However, when you have someone else holding you to a deadline, you also have both your own reputation and their opinion of you at risk. As such, having a boss or manager holding you to certain due dates can be very helpful. Being held accountable, whether by yourself or someone else, can also have several other benefits, such as:

  • You work harder
  • You’re forced to follow through with your commitments
  • Accountability keeps you grounded
  • If you have someone else holding you accountable, they can give you tips and tricks, or you can learn about their failures or successes
  • Pushing back your deadlines is harder when they’re set by someone else

In most situations, having someone else hold you accountable is far more effective than simply holding yourself accountable. However, if you’re responsible and hardworking, you may be able to make it work for yourself, too. In most cases, it depends on the personality and working habits of the person in question as to whether they’ll need someone else’s help or not.

Bodily Health

Having a healthy body and mind is much more important to maintaining good productivity than you might think. Most of us are familiar with how important proper sleep is to doing good work since most of us have experienced a work day on little or no sleep before. However, proper eating habits, stress control, and exercise play a role, too.

The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to be properly rested and productive in the morning, but this number can vary widely from individual to individual. For example, many of history’s greatest geniuses, like Albert Einstein and Leonardo DaVinci, slept very strange schedules.

Oversleeping can be detrimental to your productivity, too, so it’s important for you to find the least amount of sleep that you feel you can get each night while still staying healthy, mentally alert, and productive. However, if your sleeping habits aren’t the standard, don’t fret! You may just be a special case, like the people we mentioned above.

Keeping your body otherwise healthy at work can be tough, however. It can be difficult to eat a healthy, clean diet when you spend most of your day at work and are limited by what you can fit in your lunchbox. Additionally, when you work a desk job, it can feel like it’s tough to find enough time to exercise during the day.

After you’ve worked a long day, it might feel like the hardest thing in the world to make time to exercise or prepare a healthy meal. However, proper exercise after your workday is an excellent way to improve the efficiency and the length of your sleep. Eating healthier snacks and meals is also an exceptional way to make your body feel better, both because you’re eliminating excess calories and you’re cleansing your body of toxins.

Trim the Fat

You have a lot to do during your work day every day. A lot of times, it can feel downright impossible to accomplish all the things on our to-do lists. To help remedy this situation, take some time after work or on a day off to go through your to-do list and prune everything from the list that doesn’t absolutely need doing.  If you can’t shave something from the list entirely, try moving it to the bottom of it instead.

Your to-do list should always be organized in order of most important tasks to least important tasks, so if you really can’t find it in you to remove something from the list, move it to a secondary list or move it further down the list. However, always make sure to tackle your most important or most pressing tasks first! By doing this, you’ll get the most stressful and difficult tasks done earlier in the day, and this will make your day more pleasant and stress-free than it would be otherwise.

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