10 characteristics of a highly productive mindset

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Do you wake up each morning ready to slay the day? Or maybe you pull the covers back over your head hoping to hide for a little bit longer.

Some days I can effortlessly get so much done. It just flows.

On others though, my energy levels are flat, I procrastinate big time and I struggle to find motivation.

What’s infuriating is that I seem to have little control over it.

So how do you build a productive mindset?

Let’s look at the characteristics of productive people that we can all learn from…

1) They are organized and plan what needs to be done

I love making lists. It’s almost an obsession because it helps me feel organized.

Although often it’s more about making me feel better than it is about being productive.

Because for some reason, I think that if I write everything I need to do neatly down in a list, it’s like I’m doing something about it all.

But productive people are next-level organized.

They take time to plan and figure out what needs doing and the best way to go about it.

They have tools and systems that help them to hone in on details and make effective plans.

  • They use habits to build routines.
  • If they can do it straight away, they do small tasks immediately, rather than putting them off.
  • They do prep work so that plans run more smoothly.
  • They are detail orientated.

But as well as knowing what needs to be done, the most productive of people know how to choose wisely what to do first.

2) They prioritize what matters most

With a to-do list as long as your arm, where do you start?

When we feel bombarded by tasks it can be demotivating.

What often happens is that we tick off the easiest things first.

But when you think with the most productive mindset you go for the most important things first.

  • What will make the biggest difference to your day?
  • What will have the most impact in the long run?
  • What needs to be done asap, and what can wait?

Productive people take this into account. They use the value of tasks to determine their priority.

That way they tackle their to-do list in a smart way that makes the most use of their time and energy.

3) They are focused on the task at hand rather than splitting their attention

One of the common misconceptions of productive people is that they always have to be busy.

But busyness is rushed and can be hectic. And that’s not good for productivity.

It’s about quality and not just quantity.

That’s why productive people are active rather than busy.

They are single-minded in their pursuit of one thing at a time, rather than juggling many balls.

Many people misguidedly value multi-tasking in our society.

When we lead busy lives we can feel pressured into wearing many different hats all at once.

But at what cost?

When we divide our attention we lose focus and flow.

Research has shown that trying to go back and forth between tasks is far less efficient.

  • We’re more likely to make a mistake
  • We don’t learn as well
  • The outcome of what we’re doing is poorer quality
  • It can stress us out

Highly product people don’t spread themselves too thinly and put their attention on the present task at hand.

4) They don’t necessarily buy into hustle and grind

The hustle culture has gotten a lot of prominence in recent years.

People like American entrepreneur Garry Vaynerchuk wax lyrical about the hustle-non-stop mentality.

After all, gotta hit the grind if you want to succeed, right?

Well, no not really.

I think it probably can work for some.  But I think it overlooks the reality that it all depends on your personality.

Because for plenty of others, it only leads to guilty, burnout, and feelings of inadequacy.

We need to build in rest.

Because the drive we have to do all the time is not our natural state. It is actually just a byproduct of a totally constructed social system.

Capitalism can push an unrealistic standard of productivity on us that tempts us to base our entire self-worth on how much we get done.

Yet it’s vital to switch off and take time to do absolutely nothing.

This allows you to recharge and refresh — which actually can boost your productivity in the long run.

Breaks are also one of the things that can help you ride out the challenges you may face.

5) They are persistent and don’t give up

Most great success stories involve tenacity.

Getting things done can take time. And in order to keep on going you’ll need not only motivation but also persistence.

Even highly productive people don’t always feel like they’re making progress.

You may see their efforts from the outside but take for granted the persistence it’s taken to get to that point.

Resilience is only something that we can build through practice.

That means highly productive people are prepared to:

  • Get it wrong but still, try again
  • Have bad days but keep going
  • See failure as an unavoidable part of growth

During the toughest of times, highly productive people return to their “why”.

6) They are self-motivated and know their “why”

Getting things done takes drive.

Highly productive people are really good at self-generating this drive which creates enthusiasm and motivation.


  • They know their bigger mission.
  • They know the reason why they are doing something.

And they remind themselves of this often.

It doesn’t always need to be ground-breaking motivations. Life is often about trade-offs.

Doing the laundry and unloading the dishwasher is important because you need clean clothes and dishes.

But it might also free up important time later, so you’re not losing time and energy on unimportant tasks.

But when it comes to big accomplishments, highly productive people are able to tap into their bigger vision.

They start out by establishing a clear motivation for anything they want to do, and from that set a goal.

7) They have a positive outlook and a growth mindset

Belief in yourself is mighty powerful.

It’s going to crush your productivity if you don’t believe in yourself. That’s why the most productive people have a growth mindset.

They have a can-do attitude toward life.

They know that whatever their skills, knowledge, and talents are now — they always have the potential to develop.

They are:

  • Curious
  • Optimistic
  • Life-long learners

They recognize that the power is in their own hands and how they apply themselves.

That means taking full responsibility for themselves and what they want to achieve. But it doesn’t mean going it alone.

8) They are self-aware and know when to enlist help

The more self-aware we are of our strengths and weaknesses, the more productive we can be.

That way, we don’t waste effort on the things that really aren’t our particular skill set.

We know when someone else will do a better job, so we can put our attention on what we do best.

People with a highly productive mindset are collaborators. There is after all strength in numbers.

Even when you prefer to work alone, you can still get help.

It takes some self-awareness and deep-rooted self-esteem to be able to seek support.

But it’s important so that we don’t run ourselves into the ground trying to do it all.

We can acknowledge when we need a helping hand and know how to ask for it.

9) They are self-disciplined in keeping themselves on track

Newsflash: Willpower alone doesn’t work.

If you’ve ever thought that highly productive people just have more willpower than you, then this might come as a surprise.

We can’t rely on the strength of our willpower to follow through with things. Some experts have even suggested it’s a finite resource that runs out eventually.

But willpower is essentially self-control and that can be strengthened with practice.

Very productive people have honed the skill of monitoring their own behavior and applying discipline.

  • They set clear intentions and defined goals
  • They create the right conditions to support themselves
  • They remove temptations
  • They lean on healthy habits
  • They check in on their progress and monitor themselves

And it serves them well.

For example, research has noted that self-discipline was more important than IQ in predicting academic success.

In short: productive people know how to hold themselves accountable.

10) They take responsibility for their own life

People with a highly productive mindset aren’t waiting for a break, they’re creating chances.

They don’t expect life to be handed to them on a silver platter.

They aren’t sitting around grumbling about how it’s not fair and they can’t catch a break. They roll up their sleeves and get to work.

A lot of this comes from a deep sense of self-responsibility.

If they mess up, they own it and vow to do better next time.

If something doesn’t work out, they aren’t looking for other people or things to blame. They know it’s a waste of time.

Instead, they make themselves the captain of their own ship and set to work on steering it the direction they want to go.

Louise Jackson

My passion in life is communication in all its many forms. I enjoy nothing more than deep chats about life, love and the Universe. With a masters degree in Journalism, I’m a former BBC news reporter and newsreader. But around 8 years ago I swapped the studio for a life on the open road. Lisbon, Portugal is currently where I call home. My personal development articles have featured in Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, Thrive Global and more.

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