If You Have These 15 Habits, You're An Extraordinarily Productive Person

All it takes is a few simple life changes.

Last updated on Jul 12, 2024

productive woman on her phone Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

If you're wondering how to be productive, you aren't alone, because most people just aren't. With all the daily distractions, squeezing more out of your day can be difficult.

Still, it's entirely possible to be a productive person, all without burning yourself out. And there are certain habits the most productive people in the world follow.

Here are 15 signs you're an extraordinarily productive person

1. You create manageable to-do lists

productive woman making lists Sam Lion / Pexels

Trying to keep track in your head of everything you have to do is distracting and, according to a 2011 study, can make it less likely that you'll get everything done.

But because you're a productive person, you write your to-do list down ahead of time. It helps you better organize your weeks and days, and prevents you from losing track of time and dropping the ball. Plus, there's something instinctively satisfying about completing tasks and, by extension, checking off those boxes.

But this doesn't mean you should put your entire bucket list on Tuesday's to-do. According to life and career coach Lisa Petsinis says, "Resist the urge to create a massive daily to-do list, as this often leads to frustration and guilt. It's more rewarding to start with the highest value activities, then add on some ‘bonus' ones if you have time."

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2. You compartmentalize your day

productive woman compartmentalizing her day cottonbro studio / Pexels

Working to compartmentalize your goals each day can make what appears to be a mountain of tasks much more manageable. You understand that time spent making the rest of your day more efficient is time well spent and will pay off in the long run.

Because of how productive you are, you break down what needs to be done each day and identify when you'll do what. You sometimes use the Pomodoro Technique to help stay focused on certain tasks.

This technique requires choosing a task you need to finish and devote 25 full minutes to. Once the 25 minutes is up, you can take a break and then move on to the next task. This type of time management is the right mix of effort and rigidity.

The point is that you have a starting point of a full and confident plan, not necessarily executing it perfectly.


3. You prioritize one task at a time

productive woman prioritizing tasks Tima Miroshnichenko / Pexels

Along with list-making and compartmentalizing, you even use the Eisenhower Matrix, which is a productivity technique designed to help you prioritize tasks instead of assigning everything the same sense of urgency.

The Eisenhower Matrix is made up of four squares:

  1. Urgent and important tasks that have to be taken care of ASAP
  2. Not urgent but important tasks that have to be scheduled for completion at a later time
  3. Urgent tasks that you can delegate to others
  4. Not urgent or important tasks that you can remove from your to-do list completely

The goal is to identify what matters and when and act on that knowledge.

Christine Hourd, a lifestyle coach, explains, "There's this perception that multitasking makes you productive, yet the opposite is true. Using prioritizing tools to decide on a single task to focus on for a set amount of time, will result in increased productivity. Then with the aid of established boundaries, you'll feel more accomplished at the end of the day."


4. You exploit your most crucial hours

productive man taking advantage of his day fauxels / Pexels

Everyone is familiar with the concept of a night person versus a morning person. And depending on which one you are, you use those hours to your advantage.

We each have hours out of the day when we are more productive, awake, and focused than others. Identifying these crucial hours and exploiting them to the greatest effect makes a big difference in your overall productivity and energy level each day!

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5. You systematize your day

productive woman systematizing her day Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels

Your productive habits include creating systems that work for you. For example, if you need a certain amount of time to get some fresh air, you plan a walk into your schedule.

You don't need to run your life on a boot camp-style schedule, as you know it's impossible to maintain peak productivity all of the time. That's why having some sort of structure to organize the chaos of your day-to-day makes a huge difference.

The systems don't have to work perfectly and they won't make anything effortless, but systems provide consistency and excuses to do productive tasks.


6. You take breaks and reward yourself

productive woman walking to reward herself Frank Castañeda Peña / Pexels

You work hard, but you aren't afraid to take breaks while sticking to your plan. You're able to stay focused better because you have pre-defined breaks and rewards.

You use breaks and rewards proactively instead of reactively. For instance, you plan to take a break for 20 minutes after that morning rush, then plan exactly what you're going to do next, and when you have to start to stay on schedule for the next break.

7. You take good care of yourself

productive woman practicing self-care PNW Production / Pexels

Nobody likes to work while tired! For you, it's understood that self-care is just as important as reaching your goals.

It's hardly a ground-breaking idea that people get less productive while tired, but that doesn't stop people from ruining their sleep schedules and eating badly in the endless pursuit of more time.

Working an hour while energized and focused is productive, working for two hours while exhausted is just miserable.


8. You inspire yourself

productive woman inspiring herself Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

You don't wait to be inspired to get started on whatever you want to do; rather, you take the initiative and inspire yourself. Because, odds are, if you're ever going to become inspired to do something, you'll become inspired by starting and doing it.

You don't wait around to become inspired enough to act, as that leads to distractions and wasting time. You'll always be better off working on getting things done efficiently and effectively, rather than waiting around for the time to be "right."

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9. You break down big tasks into smaller, more manageable steps

productive woman breaking down daily tasks Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

For example, if you have to write a report, you don't add "write my 200-page dissertation" to your daily to-do list; instead, one day it's "dissertation outline" and then the next day you add "add research to outline."

Humans are results-driven creatures, so you get that if your task is too big you'll never get through it because of how far off the payoff is. To remedy this, you create small goals that focus on the tasks at hand with small rewards to keep you moving in the right direction.


10. You keep a distraction list

productive woman looking at computer Mikhail Nilov / Pexels

These are lists meant to help your distracted thoughts. Whether it's a Google document or an actual piece of paper, you keep it near you as you work, and when a distraction thought comes up you jot it down on your list.

You consider this a great resource because sometimes distractions need attention for you to regain focus.

If you're working and remember that you need milk at the store, that's a legitimate thought, but you don't have to deal with it right now. Rather, jotting it down on your list gives it the attention required for you to let it go and get back to work.

11. You say 'no' to tasks you can't take on

productive man with arms crossed Monstera Production / Pexels

As a productive person, you have good habits in terms of time management because you never take on more than you can handle. You're good at saying no when you can't complete a task in time on top of your other priorities.

If you feel like you aren't being productive because you took on too much responsibility and now feel too overwhelmed, get better at saying no.


12. You follow the 80/20 rule

productive man following pareto principle Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

The 80/20 rule was developed by economist Vilfedo Pareto and is also known as the Pareto principle. The rule says that 20% of what you do each day produces 80% of your results.

This means you prioritize the big things when completing a task and eliminate the meaningless things. Productive people find the most important 20% of a task and focus on that.

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13. You do your best work in the morning

productive woman looking at list Karolina Kaboompics / Pexels

The best time to knock out your most important tasks is in the morning when your brain is fresh. Schedule any busy work or meetings for the afternoon.

It's something you truly stick to. Because, this way, you can get the work done without being distracted by other not-so-important matters.


14. You take a walk in the sun every day

productive man taking a walk in the sun Mary Taylor / Pexels

According to a 2018 study by Cornell University professor Dr. Alan Hedge, you can boost your productivity and alertness with natural light.

You soak up Vitamin D on a nice 15-minute walk as a break from your duties, and you do so each day. You may sometimes even add exercise to your day since it's a great way to stay alert during your workday.

15. You're a go-getter

productive woman being ambitious Christina Morillo / Pexels

Going from doing one thing to doing something else is a whole lot easier than going from doing nothing to doing anything. But this is the most important habit you have, because once you get started, you know what works best for you.

One of the few things that every single task, big or small, has in common is that someone, at some point, had to just sit down and start it. And your go-getter attitude is further proof of your high productivity.

A productive person isn't a simple formula that fits all, but there are some similarities between productive individuals.

Common traits among productive people include being organized, focused, disciplined, curious, and having a penchant for critical thinking.

People who get things done often plan out their day. They stick to a schedule, completing tasks at certain times of day, and are proud planners.

Productive people also know how to prioritize finishing what they need to complete, before doing things they want to do. They feel more accomplished at the end of the day, instead of regretting not doing something that needed to be done.

Even if you don't possess all 15 of these habits, consider it a starting point to becoming more productive.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer and contributor to YourTango, covering news, politics, and social justice. His work has been featured in Daily Commercial News and Caledon Citizen.