Seven Secrets of Highly Productive People

By Ali Luke

August 30, 2011   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Some people are incredibly effective and efficient. They get lots of work done – and it’s all high-quality. They seem to have boundless energy and enthusiasm. Maybe you’ve got a friend who’s like that – or perhaps it’s your colleague, or your spouse. You might think that they were born that way: they had the “productivity gene.”

The truth is this: you can massively increase your own productivity by understanding and using the secrets that highly productive people know.

Perhaps you’ll find that some of these are familiar tips: if so, are you actually following them?

  1. Understanding “Peak” Times of DayProductive people have a good sense of their daily rhythm, and they allow for this when planning their day. They recognize that not all hours are created equal.

Do you know when your “peak” hours are? You probably have a good gut sense. Maybe you work really well in the mornings but struggle to focus in the afternoons. Perhaps you have a boost of energy at 3pm every day.

Use it: Once you know your best hours, use those for your hardest tasks – anything requiring lots of concentration or creativity. If you’re highly focused between 10am and 12noon, don’t use that time for reading emails.


  • Focusing on One Task at a TimeProductive people understand that multitasking is a myth. They don’t try to juggle five things at the same time. They focus on one task.


How about you? Perhaps you’ve fallen into the trap of trying to work while you’ve got Facebook and Twitter open. You check your inbox every few minutes. Or, at home, you try to study while you’re watching television. By trying to multitask, you’re losing focus every single time you switch between things.

Use it: Pick one task to work on – finishing that report, clearing your inbox, filing your papers – and see it through to completion. Then pick the next task.


  • Eating Healthy Food (Especially at Lunch)Productive people know that they need to carefully manage their physical energy throughout the day. That means fueling their bodies with good, nutritious food.


What does your usual lunch look like? If you scoff down fast food, plus a large coke, at your desk, you’ll get a quick energy boost from all the simple carbs – followed by a crash soon after. If you go out to a restaurant and eat a three-course meal, you’ll struggle to stay awake later in the day.

Use it: Aim for a moderate-sized lunch, and focus on foods that give you sustained energy (like whole grains and protein). Try fruit, nuts or seeds as mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.


  • Allowing Others to HelpProductive people don’t try to do everything alone. They delegate at work. They get their family to pitch in at home – or they hire a maid or gardener. They’re good at managing people, not just their own workload.


Do you ever ask for help? Perhaps you’re afraid that you’ll look weak – but the truth is, none of us achieve anything alone. We’ve always got support (whether emotional or practical) along the way.

Use it: What time-consuming tasks could you delegate at work? Could you pay someone to clean the house (or take care of the garden, etc) instead of struggling to do it yourself?


  • Saying “No” to Unwanted CommitmentsProductive people might seem to do everything, but they also say “no” to commitments that would conflict with what they’re already doing. They’re not afraid to set priorities and stick with them.


Do you find it hard to say “no”? Maybe you’re afraid of offending someone, or you feel bad turning down their request. But if you take on every commitment that comes your way, you’ll soon find that you’re not able to complete anything on time and to a high standard.

Use it: Be choosy about what new things you take on. If you don’t have much choice (e.g. it’s your boss asking) then explain that you’ve got a full workload, and that you’ll need to give up something else.


  • Exercising RegularlyProductive people make time to exercise. That might be one of the things that surprises you – How can Sam have enough energy to do a full day’s work and then hit the gym? I feel exhausted just watching him.


How often have you said “I don’t have time to exercise”? Perhaps you feel too tired at the end of the day – so you slump on the sofa in front of the TV instead. You think that if you exercise, you’ll be exhausted the next day. But, as productive people know, exercising doesn’t tire you out – it gives you more energy.

Use it: Start small. Get out in your lunch hour for a brisk 15-minute walk – and see what a difference it makes to your energy levels during the afternoon.


  • Investing Time to Save TimeProductive people know that the smart choice is to spend a little bit of time right now in order to save lots of time in the future.


Have you ever struggled on with an inefficient method, because you “didn’t have time” to change it? Perhaps you can complete a particular task in 30 minutes, and it would take two hours to put in place a more efficient method. If that 30 minute task crops up every week, though, and a two-hour fix would cut it to 5 minutes each time, it’s a fix well worth implementing!

Use it: Any time you’re engaged in a repetitive, lengthy computer task, figure out whether there’s a more efficient method (like using macros).

Do you have any secrets to add to the list? Or did one of these secrets switch on a light for you? Let us know in the comments…

Written on 3/17/2009 by Ali Luke. Ali writes a blog, Aliventures, about leading a productive and purposeful life (get the RSS feed here). As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing. Photo Credit: Stephan Modry
Ali Luke

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