A Simple Guide to Mastering Productivity

Jordan Tarver
September 6, 2020

Productivity is a snapshot of how efficiently you can complete a task. While being productive is typically a challenging feat for most, using time management strategies, like eliminating time-wasting tasks or avoiding multitasking, can help you master your efficiency. Becoming more productive is one component to improving your life. Are you willing to take the challenge?

What Is Productivity?

Alright, let's flesh out the definition of productivity. Your productivity is a measurement of how efficient you are at completing a task and is integral in your journey of self-improvement. When and if you're productive, you're able to make the most of your time and consistently execute important tasks every day, creating continuous progress.

The bottom line is this: Productivity is capitalizing on the time you have every day and developing habits of achievement. Remember, being productive is about efficiency, so aim to work smarter and not harder.

What Productivity Is Not

Productivity is not working on as many projects or tasks as possible; it's making a list of the important tasks, working on that list at a healthy, consistent pace, and completing them in a reasonable time.

Do you have that one friend or colleague that's constantly busy, can't meet up for drinks, doesn't have the time to leave the desk or take their eyes off their computer? We all have that person in our network; that person is not productive, they are busy. Sure, being busy might make you think you're getting a load of work done, but, truthfully, it's not sustainable. You must aim to be efficient.

Why Should I Master Productivity?

As we get older, it seems like the 24 hours we have every day is just not enough; we are searching for more time. I hate to break the news, but 24 hours is all you're going to ever have. However, you can take better advantage of those hours by mastering your own productivity. Not sold? Here are three reasons why you should focus on becoming more productive:

  1. Less running around with your head cut off: Mastering your efficiency is going to open up more time in your day to tackle the things that matter. When you're efficient, you'll spend less time searching for more time or, in other words, running around with your head cut off.
  2. Gives you the confidence to achieve your goals: As you complete more of your important tasks by working smarter, you'll realize your capability of achieving all your goals. Mastering your productivity will let you complete more goals over time.
  3. Opportunity to grow personally and professionally: While you check off tasks, you can improve both your personal and professional life, depending on what those tasks are related to, such as daily errands, personal projects, or work.

Don't get me wrong, working to become more productive can be a pain. A lot of us have habits of procrastination and putting things off until the next day. Using different time management strategies is one easy way to tap into your most productive self.

Productivity & Time Management Strategies

If you ask different people for help to become more productive or get ahold of your time, they will have their own methods.  Everyone has their own bread and butter when it comes to mastering their use of time. I've used several different time management strategies to help me become more efficient. Here are seven tactics that have helped me get ahold of my time.

1. The Ivy Lee Method

Ive Lee, a well-respected productivity consultant, had a knack for helping businessmen, like Charles Schwab, get more things done. His five-step method helps set yourself for the next day:

  • Step 1: At the end of your day, write down the six most important tasks you need to complete tomorrow. Only six tasks, no more. I mean it.
  • Step 2: Organize those six tasks in order of their importance.
  • Step 3: When the next day comes, only focus on your first task. Only move onto the next tasks when you complete the first one. Use this process for the remaining tasks.
  • Step 4: At the end of your day, move any incomplete tasks to your new list of six tasks for the next day.
  • Step 5: Repeat this process for every day you need to get things done.

2. Eliminate Time-wasting Tasks or Activities

Time-wasting tasks are a trap for two reasons. First off, they waste your time (big surprise). Secondly, most of the time you don't they are actually time suckers until you remove them and realize how much time you have back in your life. So ask yourself this question: What takes up my time but doesn't add to my efficiency?

Right now, I'm heavily focusing on refining my process and removing any time-wasting tasks. I'm all about getting rid of things that don't serve you and simplifying your life. Here are some tasks I've started to do less of that you may also have in your life:

  • Using my phone during the hours I work best
  • Spending time on social media
  • Watching TV or Netflix (that's a tough one, I know)
  • Hitting the snooze button multiple times

3. Set Self-imposed Deadlines

I rely on deadlines both in my personal and professional life; they can be your best friend. Setting self-imposed deadlines can hold you accountable of your goals and tasks by giving you a specific time and date for when something needs to be completed. Without deadlines, it's incredibly easy to be swallowed by procrastination and continue pushing important tasks off until tomorrow (even though we know they will get pushed off again).

4. Quit Multitasking

I'm just going to cut to the chase: Doing more than one task at a time does not make you more productive. I typically have three or four projects that are in motion during the same time period; however, I'll never work on two projects at the exact same time. I've learned the hard way that multitasking is not a recipe for efficiency but a recipe for low-quality work.

Make a list of your tasks or projects, or use the Ivy Lee method, and don't move onto the next task until the preceding one is completed. Quit multitasking and start getting shit done.

5. Warren Buffetts Two List Approach

I love learning of the time management tactics and strategies high-performing, successful businessmen and women use to capitalize on their work. One in particular is Warren Buffett, who focuses on a two list approach. It goes like this:

  1. Make a list of your top 25 goals, tasks, or anything else you want to spend your time on.
  2. Circle your top five goals or tasks from that list. Now you have two lists, one with your top five goals and the other with the remaining 20 tasks.
  3. Focus on your top five goals. The other 20 tasks become your avoid-at-all-cost list; don't start these tasks until your top five tasks are completed.

6. Focus On Getting Started, Not Succeeding

Quite often, too many people obsess over the end goal or their future success that they never actually get started on working toward the goal. In other words, people paralyze themselves by overthinking or overanalyzing a specific situation or task, causing no forward motion or effective decision-making. I understand from personal experience that it's incredibly easy to dream about succeeding or reaching a goal and forget about the most important step, getting started.

Learn from my mistakes and pursuit of becoming more productive. The quicker you get started and the less you think about the end result, the sooner you'll achieve your goal and vision of success.

7. Time Block Your Days

Time blocking has become one of my most used strategies, which is a simple way to break up your day into blocks of time to become more efficient. This means you set blocks of time, such as one to three hours, and only work on a specific task during that window. Blocking your day helps you prioritize your tasks, eliminate unused time, prevent procrastination, and create a routine schedule.

For example, say you need to work on a report for work every Monday that takes two hours. You would block two hours every Monday and only work on that report for the duration of the two hours. Once the two hours is up or the task is complete, you move onto your next time block and task.

Simple Tips to Be More Productive Every day

  1. Aim for less screen time: Focus on removing your phone from the room where you work. This eliminates the urge to check text messages or mindlessly scroll on social media. It's an easy distraction and steals more time than it deserves.
  2. Prepare the night before: I'm all about setting yourself up for success. Identify what you want and need to get done before your next day begins. This will give you a clear roadmap when you start your day.
  3. Work in a quiet room or office: Removing distractions and noises will help you focus better. If you can, take your work into a quiet part of your office or house to yield the best results.
  4. Stop procrastinating: Easier said than done, but stop giving yourself permission to push tasks off until the next day. Use the time management strategies above to help you avoid this unhealthy habit.
  5. Take breaks: You can only work on a task for so long until your efficiency goes out the window. Schedule breaks into your day to help you return to work rejuvenated and reenergized.

Best Productivity Books

Bottom Line

Mastering productivity is challenging, but it can be done by anyone who is willing to dedicate their time. With a few tips, such as removing distractions, quitting multitasking, and identifying your most important tasks, you can start to use more time more efficiently. The end result? Getting important tasks done consistently.


Jordan Tarver is a lead editor at Forbes, a keynote speaker, and the bestselling author of You Deserve This Sh!t.
He’s transformed over 30,000 lives through his book, amassed more than 200,000 devoted followers, and garnered over 60 million views online. Jordan is on a mission to empower people and organizations to unlock exponential growth and expansive possibilities.

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