How To Be More Productive: 17 Tips To Help You Live A Better Life

Are you wanting to learn how to be productive? Are you feeling like you aren’t as productive as you usually are? Or, perhaps life is really busy right now and you want to be able to manage it all better. Many people struggle with how to be productive. We all have lots of things to…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: August 7, 2022

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Are you wanting to learn how to be productive?

how to be productiveAre you feeling like you aren’t as productive as you usually are? Or, perhaps life is really busy right now and you want to be able to manage it all better.

Many people struggle with how to be productive. We all have lots of things to do and sometimes we can accomplish them all, and other times it is very difficult.

I go through productivity spurts.

At times, I feel like I can accomplish anything and everything, and other days I don’t even know what (if anything) I did all day. 

This is an area that I am constantly working on, and perhaps you are too.

Sometimes I am distracted by so many different things that it has caused me to waste a huge amount of time. Therefore, I have not been able to live in the moment like I would really like to.

Currently, though, I am trying to be as productive as I can, and trying to get ahead on as much work as possible. We are about to sail away from Florida after a very busy summer traveling in the van, and being more productive now means I’ll have a better time when we are sailing.

That is one of the best benefits of learning how to be productive – you will have more time to focus on what you really love doing. You won’t be stressed out by things you still need to do, and you can just live in the moment without any distractions.

However, learning how to be productive can be very difficult for some people. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a long to-do list. Negative thoughts can hold you back from believing you can accomplish your goals or tasks. And, social media can be a huge distraction.

While those things can prevent you from being productive, they are also a huge waste of time. 

And, the thing about wasting time is that it can hold you back from reaching your goals.

By learning how to be productive, you may be able to:

  • Begin a side hustle.
  • Eliminate your debt.
  • Spend more time with your those that you love.
  • Learn a new skill.
  • Enjoy life more.
  • Travel more.
  • Increase your income.
  • Reach your dreams, and more!

If you start today with just one of the ideas for how to be more productive, you will be that much closer to reaching your goals. So, when you read through this article, pick one idea you’d like to try today. You can try more once you see how well just one of them works.

Related reads:

Hopefully the productivity tips in today’s article will help you find hours in your week, no matter how you lose them.

How to be productive – 17 tips for success


1. Realize how much time you have to work with.

The first step is to be realistic with yourself.

Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but others may be more limited with their time. I understand that different situations can make a person quite busy, so you need to be honest with yourself about much available time you have.

You don’t want to run yourself ragged, forget about the things that truly matter in life, hurt your work performance, and more.

However, many people do have extra time in their days but just don’t realize it. For one week, I recommend keeping track of the time you spend on various tasks and see how much time you waste and how you can improve.

You’ll most likely be very surprised!


2. Leave your negative outlook behind and find positivity.

I know what you’re thinking – How is this related to learning how to be productive?!

According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are repetitive thoughts. (statistic found on Medium)

That is a lot of time wasted on negative thoughts!

Lately, though, I’ve been realizing that I waste a lot of time with negative and repetitive thoughts. It’s been crazy to realize how easy it is to turn something so little and simple into something negative.

This is one of the productivity tips that may be hard to adapt to, but learning to be positive will really help you in the long run.

Instead of focusing on negatives like regret, guilt, comparisons, and more, you can be more productive by using this time for things that actually matter.

When you find that you are thinking in a negative way, take a moment to think of something that makes you happy. Is it your family? Do you love what you do? Did someone do something nice for you today?

A positive outlook can be life changing.

Related articles that will help you learn how to have a productive and positive day:


3. Check your email less. Way less.

This is one area that I have always struggled with. Even though I am guilty of checking my email numerous times throughout the day, I am starting to take my own advice and checking it less often.

I think the problem for me is that I feel obligated to keep checking my email in case something pops up with my business or if a reader has a question. I want to be as available as much possible, but that means I am constantly checking my email. 

While it may not feel like you are spending that much time checking your email, the time and focus it takes to switch back and forth can really add up. It can also cause you to lose your train of thought when you should actually be doing something else.

If this is an issue for you and you want to learn how to be productive, I recommend setting time aside throughout the day to check your email. You can even set a rule that you only check after you finish a task. You can also turn off email notifications if they are distracting you.

You may want to work down to only checking your email just a few times a day, or even (EEEK!!!) once a day.


4. Unsubscribe from unnecessary emails.

Subscribing to emails is really easy to do. We’ve all done it to get a coupon code, at the cash register to get a receipt (isn’t that annoying?!), and sometimes you just mysteriously land on an email list.

Over the years, I’ve subscribed to plenty of different websites and companies. I got hundreds of unnecessary emails every day, and even though I set up tabs to organize my email, I was still spending so much time filtering through them. 

It was tedious, and they were mostly junk. But, sometimes real emails got lost in the mix as well!

So, I unsubscribed from almost all emails, except for blogs that I enjoy and whatever is absolutely necessary.

Everything else has been removed.

If you find that you are spending too much time everyday checking, reading, and deleting emails that it isn’t allowing you to live in the moment and live your best life, I definitely suggest unsubscribing to the ones that aren’t meaningful to you.

You can find an unsubscribe button on the bottom of most emails, and it just takes a couple of clicks to get off an email list. 


5. Wake up earlier.

Some say that they are most productive early in the morning. If this is the case, then use this to your advantage!

When I had my day job, I would usually wake up around one to two hours before I had to start getting ready for work. I would use this time to work on my side hustles, which included replying to emails, brainstorming ideas, managing my blog, finding mystery shop jobs, and more.

Sometimes, waking up early was extremely rough, but it was nice to get everything done before I went to work. This was also one of the ways I learned how to be productive at home, because I could also use this time to straighten things up around the house or clean.

If you’re not a morning person, you can always try to fit in time before you go to bed. Often I would even work on my side hustles for a few hours before I went to bed.

Related: 9 Tips To Wake Up Early & Why It Feels So Good


6. Organization is your friend.

Your productivity can be greatly influenced by how organized you are. 

Here are some surprising statistics I found from Simply Orderly about being unorganized:

  • The average person spends 12 days per year looking for things they can’t find.
  • Every day, the average office worker spends 1.5 hours looking for things.
  • In a recent survey, 55% of consumers stated they would save anywhere from 16 to 60 minutes a day if they were organized.
  • 23% of people pay bills late and have to pay late fees because they are unable to find their bills.

Becoming more organized can be hard at first, but it can really help you reclaim time in your day. If you want to learn how to be productive by organizing your life, here are several helpful tips:

  • Put things away when you are finished using them.
  • Make a schedule and stick to it.
  • Write things down in a notebook or planner so you don’t forget anything.
  • Regularly tidy things up.
  • Switch to a minimalist lifestyle.

Like I said, learning good organizational skills can be difficult, and you will have to commit if you really want to take part in this tip. But, being organized will ensure that your living and working spaces are functional, and it will probably even clear some mental clutter.

Posts related to minimalist living:

Also, organize your finances!

This is one of the tips that won’t just help you learn how to be productive with your time, it will help you gain control of your financial situation. Organizing your finances includes things like setting up auto pay on your bills, creating a budget, and using an online platform to show you all of your accounts.

My favorite online tool for keeping track of my finances is Personal Capital. Personal Capital allows you to aggregate your financial accounts so that you can easily see your financial situation. You can connect accounts such as your mortgage, bank accounts, credit card accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more. And, it is FREE.


7. Use short gaps in your day wisely.

Everyone has gaps of time in their day. This could be a gap before you have a meeting, a gap between your day job and night classes, a gap before you have to pick up the kids from school, or something else.

Maybe you have 15 to 30 minutes or an hour. Most people will just plunk down on the couch and watch TV or browse Facebook.

However, if you want to learn how to be productive, find ways to wisely use these gaps in your day. 

Here are some examples of how you can take advantage of short gaps in your day:

  • You can use a gap to write out tomorrow’s to do list. 
  • You can pay a bill or two.
  • If you’re a freelancer, you can use this time to bill your clients. 
  • Use this time to schedule appointments.
  • Make a meal plan and grocery list.


8. Watch less TV.

Fun fact: I haven’t watched TV in over a month!

Less fun fact: I’m not perfect and often binge watch TV shows when I happen to find a good one.

TV absolutely kills my productivity level. I know how easily I can get sucked into the world of Netflix, so I haven’t even tried watching anything lately.

I love a good TV show, and I can honestly say that I once wasted a lot of time by watching too much TV. The average person watches TV for over 35 hours per week! I’m not sure if I was watching that much, but I know I was close.

Can you imagine what you could do by reclaiming just half of those hours each week?

Cutting out the amount of TV you watch will really help you if you want to learn how to be more productive. By cutting back on TV, you will have a few more hours everyday to focus on more important things.

Related: 16 Alternatives To Cable TV That WILL Save You Money


9. Spend less time getting ready.

Being more productive often involves saving time on littles aspects of your daily life. These things are often overlooked and can add up to a lot of wasted time, like taking forever to get ready. There are lots of people who spend way too much time picking out outfits and trying to get ready, and I was once one of them.

Since we had to downsize to travel full-time, I had to get rid of a lot of my clothes. It was a little hard at first because I had so many! But, by having less clothing options and/or choosing your outfit the night before, you can save valuable minutes each day.

Before we downsized, I couldn’t even remember all of the clothes I had, but now I save time each day because I know what I have and what looks good together.

For more information, I recommend checking out Becoming Minimalist’s blog post, Capsule Wardrobe: Why Some Are Wearing the Same Thing Every Day.


10. Have a to do list and use your calendar.

I love my constant to do list and having a full calendar.

Without these two things in my life, I would feel lost, unorganized, and probably even confused about what to do! 

Yes, I rely heavily on my to do list, but putting a to do list together doesn’t have to be hard. I keep my to do list on my phone, and it’s just a simple list of things I need to do throughout the day, week, month, and year. I can even set reminders so I don’t forget when things need to be done. Others find that planners work for well for them too.

This is a tip that will help you learn how to be productive in every aspect of your life, as you can have a to do list for work, home, etc. Your to do list will keep you on track so you don’t forget what needs to be done on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This will keep you motivated and working towards your goals.

Related: 15 Of My Best Working From Home Tips So You Can Succeed


11. Make sure your to do list is doable.

Even though I have an on-going to do list, many people benefit from having a smaller and more approachable list. 

You can start by asking yourself, “is this something I can really do today?” If the answer is “yes,” then add it to your list. If you are unsure, you might want to break it down into smaller tasks or save it for another day.

By having a smaller list, you may feel a greater sense of accomplishment knowing that you’ve crossed everything off your list for the day, even if it is just a couple of things. This can motivate you to work on bigger tasks and goals over time.


12. Practice self-care.

Yes, self-care is important for your productivity levels!

Self-care is simply doing something to protect your mental or physical health. It can be something like taking a nice long bath, meditating, drinking more water, etc.

It’s spending a little bit of time to put yourself first.

When you are busy or overwhelmed with other aspects of your life, self-care is one of the last things you think you should do. But, when you take a small break to take care of yourself, the effects can ripple out through the rest of your life.

You may find that your stress is reduced, you’re more productive, happier, and more.

This tip is often overlooked when people want to learn how to be productive, but it’s always important to take care of yourself.


13. Procrastinating doesn’t help anyone.

Procrastination can waste time and kill your productivity as you may find anything else you can possibly do before completing a certain task.

Then, you might do things that waste even more time, such as just standing around, watching TV, cleaning the same area you’ve already cleaned 10 times that day, and more.

People procrastinate for all sorts of reasons, like anxiety, avoidance, etc. When you figure out why you are procrastinating, you can then create an action plan. By focusing on what you need to do, you will stop wasting time!


14. Get off social media.

Okay, you’re probably thinking, “there’s no way that I can cut out social media!” I’m not saying that you need to cut it out entirely, but if you spend a little less time everyday on social media, you will find valuable hours each week.

Social Media Today found that the average person spends nearly two hours a day on social media. When you add all of that time up, it equals to wasting over 5 YEARS of your life on social media. That’s shocking!

If you find that you are spending too much time on social media and that it’s preventing you from being productive, you may want to close the accounts you are spending too much time on. You can even create a time block so you cannot access your accounts during certain periods of the day, and so on.


15. Singletask more.

There are some people who say that learning to multitask can help you learn how to be productive, but I don’t 100% agree with that. 

Now, some people can multitask successfully, but many people cannot with the large amount of time it takes to refocus on a new task. So, when you are constantly switching back and forth, you waste time refocusing.

This is one tip that is helpful if you want to learn how to be more productive at work.

It’s best to realize your strengths and weaknesses to know whether or not multitasking actually helps you save time. For myself, I’ve found that focusing on one thing at a time is actually how I save the most time when working.


16. The snooze button is probably hurting you.

Getting an extra five minutes of sleep after your alarm goes off isn’t going to change your life. There are many scientific studies proving that hitting the snooze button does nothing good for you.

I know many people who set their alarms to go off anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour before they actually want to wake up. 

I’m not going to lie. I used to do this as well and thought it was the only way I could get up. It definitely did not work, as I always felt extremely groggy and sometimes even more tired!

If you want to learn how to be productive, wake up when your alarm first goes off to use those minutes valuably. If you are so tired in the morning that you feel you need to hit the snooze button, then you should either start going to sleep earlier in the evening or set your alarm for when you actually need to get out of bed.


17. Know your peak hours.

Each of us has certain hours of the day that we work more efficiently. For some people, it’s in the morning, while others work well late at night. I’ve even read that many people are the most productive right before lunch because they are hungry.

You can learn how to be productive by spending a week paying attention to the times of the day when you are most focused. Those are your peak hours, and most people have two peak hours per day.

Knowing your peak hours will help you learn how to concentrate and complete high-priority tasks. This will help you get the most important or complicated things done.

What are your top tips on how to be productive? Do you think you waste time each day?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Great tips, thank you. I would be lost without lists. We find checking recipes and making a list of meals for the week and writing out a shopping list at the same time makes this much quicker. We can do it and then forget about wondering what to cook and we get to the supermarket knowing exactly what I want.

  2. tips number 2 in this years became my best deal!!!

  3. Great tips. Some I’m already great at, some not so much. I definitely waste too much time on tv (and it’s November and I have 3 Hallmark channels playing non-stop Christmas movies so that habit probably won’t change until January) and Candy Crush.

    I’m not a morning person but I can stay up half the night working and it seems to work for me. I do need to learn to juggle priorities better. I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year and I spent a crazy amount of time on that this weekend but ended up totally neglecting other important things (like filling out my son’s FAFSA and cleaning my house). I have to find a better balance.

    1. Yeah, I work better at night. I’m trying to transition, though!

  4. Lee | The Wealthy Wolf

    Putting aside dedicated times to check email has been a big game changer for me – I used to leave the Mail app open & would check it every time it pinged.

    Really horrible for productivity & the trap of “multi tasking”!

    1. Same here! It’s definitely a productivity killer.

  5. Dickson

    Wow! These productive tips are awesome. I procrastinate a lot and when it’s time to get it done something just popped up and I’m compelled again to put it for future work. I will do the necessary and avoid wasting time. Thank you

  6. Hey Michelle,

    All the tips you’ve shared here are useful to be more productive.
    I would like to add two more tips that helped me a lot.

    #1: Make your to-do list ready for the next day before going to bed.

    #2: Practice meditation everyday to relax your mind and body.

    I’m getting result practicing these two tips along with others.
    Thanks for sharing this nice post.

    1. Thanks for sharing these – great tips 🙂

  7. John Engle

    Hi Michelle,

    This is my first time commenting… I have to say, you give a lot of great advice on this site.

    For the past 6 or so months I have been getting up at 5am – 6 days a week to do my side hustle. For a few months I was spinning my wheels, but now that I’m on track, I am more productive and feel like I’m finally getting somewhere with my blog.

    I have cut out TV, almost completely (except for Sunday football), I have tightened up my to-do list with separate 2 weekly organizers – a personal to-do list and a side hustle to-do list and it works amazing for me.

    I am better organized, stay away from checking emails except once a day, stay away from social media and my alarm clock is 10 feet away from my bed eliminating hitting the snooze button.

    It’s amazing how some simple changes can make such a great impact.

    Thank you for writing this helpful article…

    John Engle

  8. Hi Michelle,

    As an small business owner staying productive is difficult. Only reason i am stay productive and finish task on time is because the to do list i keep on daily basis. I make sure i prepare a to do list after i wake up in morning and write a to do list before i sleep. I have been following this for the last couple of months. this is has worked for me well.

    I am trying to start meditation on daily basis.

    Thank you Michelle, for writing this helpful blog post…

  9. Heather

    Great ideas! I’ve been working on getting up earlier even though I’m not a morning person. On the days I get out of bed early, I accomplish so much more. I also totally agree about staying organized and using a planner/calendar. Thanks for this great article!

  10. Hi Michelle… boy where do I start… this has been one up and down life long battle for me…. Aged 46, even my school report said “Shaun is easily distracted” – that was 30 years ago!
    So I’m trying to battle this, and it’s going to be with me forever…

    I go through periods where I get angry, knuckle down, as though nothing else matters and I get stuff done.. it once pushed my blog from $200 to $1400 a month (and since dropped a year later for inactivity.. sigh)..

    I run an offline business too (whihc is now well established (7+ years) and genuinely very successful, so it takes up a massive chunk of each day.. but..

    What has worked for me really well this last week is to get up to 4:15am…

    I’ve noticed that mornings for me I can actually be productive.. I’m awake and alert.. and so Ive been adding 1000+ words each day to the blog all week and I’m blown away.

    In the evenings I’ve tried for years to be productive but I’m so tired, so invariably it doesn’t work out for me.

    So hopefully this little tiny tip will work for others!

    Get up crazy early Mondya to Friday, do 2 hours work on your side hustle… go to bed super early like 8.30 or 9pm Monday to friday. Weekend then bcomes family time..

    The good side benefit is I am no longer “in a mood” due to being frustrated because I am not progressing… I didnt realise this for quite some time, frustrations of not driving my dream of an online income are there if I don’t work on the dream…

    One final question for you… how would you prepare to switch from full time offline to full time online? I think I know, just trying to make sure the income doubles the offline, and I have a safety net of a minimum of 6 months .. just scary when my offline income is a great lifeline financially….


    1. Unlike you, I’m a night owl. When I used to wake up at 6am to go to work, my brain was shut off and doesn’t get awake until I step into the office. I wish I were a morning person though, it would be better for my health because sleeping late is not very good for me mentally nor physically… yet it’s the only time I have to get things done while my little baby goes to sleep.

  11. This is a shocking statistics:

    “According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are repetitive thoughts.”

    Spending time on negative thoughts on repeat is definitely something that can drain a person. I know I’m always trying to focus on the positives but the bad thoughts do seep in at times.

    Thanks for sharing!