11 things productive people do to maximize their time

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Ever wonder how some people get so much done in a day?

It’s like they have more hours than the rest of us, right?

Well, they don’t—they just use their time super wisely.

So, if you’re looking to get more done without feeling rushed, you’re in the right spot.

We’re going to talk about 11 simple things productive people do to make the most of their day.

Let’s go.

1. They Plan Their Day Ahead

Ever try going on a road trip without a map? Yeah, you might eventually get somewhere, but you’ll waste a lot of gas and time along the way.

Productive people know this. That’s why they plan their day before it even starts.

They take a few minutes the night before—or first thing in the morning—to jot down what they need to do.

This can be a to-do list, time blocks in their calendar, or even some quick bullet points.

Having a plan helps them stay focused. It’s like having a GPS for their day. They know where they’re headed, so they can get there as efficiently as possible.

Practical Tip: Use the “1-3-5 Rule” when you’re planning your day. Pick one big task, three medium tasks, and five smaller tasks to focus on for the day. This setup is manageable but still ambitious enough to keep you moving forward.

This method gives you a structured yet flexible framework that makes planning less daunting. It also helps you prioritize, so you know exactly what needs your attention most.

2. They Avoid the Trap of Multi-Tasking

You know that feeling when you’re juggling like a circus performer—texting while on a call, scrolling through emails during a meeting, or switching between five different tabs on your computer?

It’s easy to think you’re crushing it, getting so much done at once.

Here’s the catch: Multi-tasking is like that snack you know you shouldn’t have. It feels good for a moment but doesn’t really fill you up—or get you any closer to your goals.

Science backs this up, too. Studies show that multi-tasking can actually slow you down and mess with the quality of your work.

So while it might feel like you’re the ultimate productivity ninja, you’re probably not doing any of those tasks particularly well.

Practical Tip: Turn off notifications on your devices while working on a single task. It helps you commit your full attention to what you’re doing, minimizing distractions.

3. They Take Breaks to Get More Done

Imagine working non-stop for hours, glued to your screen or buried in paperwork. You might think you’re powering through, getting things done.

But what if I told you that those short breaks you sometimes skip could actually make you more productive?

That’s right. Taking a step back to stretch, grab a cup of coffee, or even go for a quick walk can recharge your mental batteries. It’s like giving your brain a mini-vacation.

When you get back to work, you’re more focused, more creative, and you make fewer mistakes.

Plus, breaks can help you see the bigger picture. When you’re too deep in the details, it’s easy to miss out on the “aha” moments that could solve a problem or spark a great idea.

Practical Tip: Try the Pomodoro Technique—25 minutes of focused work followed by a 5-minute break. After four cycles, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. It helps maintain high levels of focus without burning out.

4. They Know When to Say “No”

Look, we all want to be team players, the go-to person for everything, the hero who can handle it all.

But let’s get real: Saying “yes” to every request, meeting, and project that comes your way is a fast track to burnout city.

It’s not just about overloading your plate; it’s about diluting your focus. Every “yes” to something that’s not aligned with your goals or priorities is a “no” to something that is.

The trick here isn’t to turn into a hermit who declines every opportunity. It’s about making conscious choices.

Ask yourself, “Is this task, meeting, or favor going to serve my bigger goals, or is it going to distract me?” If it’s the latter, muster up the courage to say “no” without feeling guilty.

If you’re always in “yes” mode, you’re essentially letting other people dictate how you spend your precious time.

Take back control. Your time is your life’s currency—spend it wisely.

Practical Tip: Before saying “yes,” pause and think, “Is this aligned with my goals?” If it’s not, consider declining politely or delegating the task.

5. They Use Tech Wisely, Not Mindlessly

We all love our gadgets, right? A quick scroll through social media, a speedy reply to an email, or a glance at the latest news—all of it can feel like you’re staying connected and informed.

But here’s the twist: Not all screen time is created equal.

You know that moment when you unlock your phone for one thing and, before you know it, you’re lost in the endless scroll?

It’s like walking into a room and forgetting why you’re there. Super relatable, but not super productive.

So here’s a nifty idea: Treat your tech like a tool, not a pastime. Use apps that boost your productivity, set timers to remind you to take breaks or move on to the next task, and turn off those pesky notifications that don’t serve any real purpose.

It’s about being the master of your digital world, not letting it master you. Because, let’s face it, that notification ding is addictive—but ticking off items on your to-do list? Now that’s a real high.

Practical Tip: Use website blockers or apps like Freedom to temporarily block distracting websites during your work hours.

6. They Prioritize Sleep—It’s a Non-Negotiable

Did you know that even short-term sleep deprivation can affect your mood, memory, and decision-making skills?

Yup, pulling all-nighters or consistently skimping on sleep isn’t the badge of honor it’s often made out to be. It’s more like sabotaging your own productivity.

And hey, no one’s giving out awards for “Most Burned Out,” right?

Productive people know this. They understand that sleep is when the body and mind recharge, repair, and get ready to kick butt the next day.

So they make sleep a priority, not something to be sacrificed for an extra hour of work or Netflix.

Think about it: Would you run a marathon with a half-charged battery? Of course not.

So don’t expect to power through your day without giving your body and brain the rest they need to perform at their best.

Practical Tip: Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, to regulate your body’s clock and improve the quality of your sleep.

7. They Tackle the Tough Stuff First

Ever have one of those tasks that’s like a dark cloud hanging over your head?

You know, the one you keep putting off because it’s hard, complicated, or just plain annoying?

We all have those. But here’s what separates the productivity pros from the rest of us: They take on those challenging tasks first thing.

It’s based on the idea that your willpower is freshest in the morning, kind of like a fully charged phone battery.

As the day goes on, that battery drains. So it makes sense to use that full charge on the tough stuff, right?

Practical Tip: Try the “Two-Minute Rule” if you’re dreading a big task. Spend just two minutes on it—whether it’s writing the first few sentences of a report or sorting a pile of papers. You might find that once you’ve started, you’ve got the momentum to keep going.

8. They Practice Mindfulness to Stay Focused

You’ve probably heard the buzzword “mindfulness” tossed around quite a bit. It might sound all Zen and mystical, but it’s actually pretty down-to-earth.

Mindfulness is basically about being fully present, about giving your 100% to whatever you’re doing.

Sure, it’s tempting to let your mind wander—maybe you’re daydreaming about your next vacation while you’re stuck in a meeting.

But those daydreams are like little leaks in your productivity bucket.

So how do you become more mindful? It’s not about sitting in lotus position and chanting—unless that’s your jam, of course.

It’s about catching yourself when you drift off and gently guiding your focus back to the task at hand.

Your attention is one of the most valuable things you have. Treat it like gold.

When you focus on what’s in front of you, you’ll find that tasks become easier, you make fewer mistakes, and you actually get stuff done faster.

Practical Tip: Take short, mindful breaks where you focus solely on your breath for 1-2 minutes. This can help reset your focus and improve concentration.

9. They Embrace Failure as a Stepping Stone

In a world obsessed with success stories and highlight reels, it might seem odd to celebrate failures.

But hear me out: Productive people understand that failure isn’t the end of the road—it’s more like a pit stop on the way to success.

Instead of hiding from mistakes or stewing in regret, they examine what went wrong, learn from it, and move on.

It’s like turning lemons into lemonade, or better yet, using those lemons to power a lemon battery.

Yep, they get that creative with their setbacks!

See, every failure carries a lesson, like a little gift-wrapped box of wisdom. Unpacking that box helps you do better next time.

If you find yourself tripping up, don’t think of it as falling down. Think of it as gathering intel for your next big leap.

Remember, the road to success is paved with setbacks. The difference is that productive people use them as stepping stones, not stumbling blocks.

Practical Tip: Keep a “failure journal” to jot down what went wrong and what you learned. Review it regularly to remind yourself of lessons learned and how far you’ve come.

10. They Don’t Wait for Motivation; They Create It

Let’s cut through the fluff: Motivation is not a magical fairy that sprinkles you with the ‘get-up-and-go’ dust.

Waiting around for motivation to strike is like waiting for a bus that’s never scheduled to arrive.

You’ll be left stranded with your goals far off in the distance.

Productive people get this. They know that action breeds motivation, not the other way around.

Think about it—how often have you not wanted to do something, but once you got started, you got into the groove?

Productivity isn’t a talent. It’s a habit. It’s something you build, day by day, by taking action—even when you don’t feel like it. Especially when you don’t feel like it.

Practical Tip: Set micro-goals or milestones for a task to make it less overwhelming and to give yourself small wins that boost motivation.

11. They Know When to Unplug and Recharge

You’ve probably heard the phrase “work hard, play hard,” but how about “work smart, rest smart”?

Yep, productive people know that going full throttle 24/7 is not just unsustainable; it’s a recipe for burnout.

And let’s get this straight: ‘Unplugging’ isn’t just about stepping away from your devices—though that’s a great start. It’s about stepping away from work altogether and taking time for things that refuel you.

Whether that’s reading a book, spending time with loved ones, or just sitting quietly with a cup of tea, these moments of rest are crucial.

A well-rested you is a more productive you. It’s not being lazy; it’s being smart.

When you’re recharged and refreshed, you bring a clearer mind and a better attitude to your tasks.

So, don’t think of downtime as time wasted. Think of it as time invested—in a more productive, more balanced, more awesome you.

Practical Tip: Schedule “unplug” time in your calendar, just like you would for a meeting. Use this time for activities that truly recharge you, making it non-negotiable.

In Conclusion

Time is our most valuable asset, and once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. So why not make the most of each and every moment?

From planning your day with the 1-3-5 Rule to knowing when it’s time to unplug, these strategies are all about making you the most efficient, effective, and balanced version of yourself.

Don’t just read through this list and forget about it—take action! Even small changes can lead to big results over time.

So why wait? Start adopting these habits and practical tips, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming the productivity pro you were always meant to be.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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