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How to Be More Productive With Less Effort

how to be productive

How many times have you wished you had a clone?

Honestly, I feel like this a lot of the time.

There’ll be times when I have a list of fairly simple things to do over the weekend and somehow they don’t get accomplished. Then come Monday morning I’m trying to figure out why it didn’t get done. Looking around like ugh, I should’ve gone that already.

The worst is when I realize that I actually did have a few opportunities to mark it off the list but one way or another I didn’t get around to it because I chose to do something of less importance.

With the busiest time of the year coming around the corner it’s going to become even harder to get things done.

Things are going to be moving at the speed of light, one holiday after another, with nonstop things to do.

Halloween is coming up. You have to get candy for the herd of kids that will be begging for a trick or a treat. And let’s face it you don’t have any tricks up your sleeve.

Then you’ve got to hurry to the supermarket to snag the last frozen turkey for Thanksgiving and defrost it in a single afternoon.

Don’t forget about the lack of sleep you’ll be getting that night after a long cleaning up due to your Black Friday preparations. And I’m not even going to talk about wrapping gifts and hiding them.

If you want to make it through you have to get things under control now or it’ll be a disaster. The next few months could be a whirlwind that will leaving your head spinning.

But wait, there are people out there who manage to glide through it all like nothing. You know them. They make it all look effortless while leaving you confused and a bit annoyed.

There’s a method to their madness and you’re about to find out exactly what it is.

What’s the difference?

See your problem is you’ve got too much going on. It’s just one thing after another, back to back. What is it all really? Do you even know what you’re spending your time on?

Nothing in the grand scheme of things. It’s all time wasters that do not add to your real goals.

And why are you somehow choosing these things by default? Because you don’t have the right things in focus. You know you have to do something but you’re choosing the easy, pointless thing.

So at the end of the day you’ve actually done something, it’s not like you were just lying on the couch all day. But all together it’s too many little trivial things, they aren’t leaving an impact. Or aren’t important at all.

Oh, and let’s not forget when you take an hour doing something that should’ve only taken 15 minutes.

Become one of them

You have to hone in your focus, keeping it right where it needs to be.

You have to adjust your focus. The reason those show offs can get so much done is because they know what to concentrate on.

The point of being productive isn’t just to be doing something all the time, it’s to get the right things done.

What difference does it make that you cleared out most of your inbox when it was more important to find a specific email and respond to it promptly.

Sure your mailbox is less stressful looking but you still haven’t gotten to the nitty-gritty.

While you’re tackling your ever growing to-do list and trying to continue with your goals there are a few things you can do to be more productive without having to hire a stunt double.

Once you’ve mastered the most chaotic time of the year, with everything crossed off of your to-do list, you’ll have the confidence and skill to take on anything.

You can take over the New Year like a boss. Just think you’ll be able to live the life you want without exhausting yourself.

Here’s how:

1. Set priorities

With life throwing little unexpected surprised your way it can be hard to get everything you want to get done accomplished. So it’s important to know exactly what needs to be done and by when.

2. Clear it up

It’s hard to concentrate and work when you’re surrounded by a mess. You may think it’s your unique way of being organized, as I once did, but really it stimulates stress.

Clean up your space and find a system that works for you when it comes to keeping it that way.

3. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted

When you’re doing one thing, allow your focus to be completely on it. If that means turning off the TV, silencing your phone or blocking the internet while you work, then do it.

It’s very easy to get caught up watching the same movie again that you’ve seen a million times, just because you can’t seem to tear your eyes away. And it’s equally as easy to be distracted by other apps on your cell phone after answering a text.

4. Busy?

Most of the time when people say they were busy they actually weren’t doing much.

If it seems like you don’t have much time to do what you need to reflect on what you’ve been doing. When you look back on what you spend your time on you may be shocked to realize that it’s not worth it and not productive.

Cut those tasks down. Instead use that new found time to complete your priorities.

5. Do it once

Sometimes you can get so caught up with getting things done that you don’t really care how they’re done.

Make sure you are doing things right the first time around so that you don’t have to fix your mistakes later. Remember quality over quantity because it really doesn’t matter how much you did when you just have to do it all over again.

6. Take it easy

When you rush through things you miss stuff and make careless mistakes. You may think that you should be moving faster but a steady pace is well suited to do things right. See #5 again.

7. Scratch multitasking

Multitasking works perfectly when you need to chew gum and walk at the same time. But it doesn’t have the same effectiveness when you’re working on big projects or trying to listen and type at the same time, less your goal is to type what is being said.

Many of the things you do will need your complete attention and focus. Give it the time and energy it requires so you can efficiently move on.

8. Be present

If you find yourself daydreaming quickly snap out of it. Don’t allow yourself to be easily distracted. Completely concentrate on what you’re doing. You’ll find that it’ll be easier to get through once you’re focused.

9. Have some fun

Relax and take a break. When you’re being a busy little bee you need time to refresh and reenergize more than ever.

Just go outside and take a breather. Do pretty much anything that isn’t work. This will help you avoid feeling burnt out.

10. Be positive

If your dominate thoughts are centered on not being able to get things done, you won’t. Instead of telling yourself that it all can’t be done, ask yourself how it can. Before you know it all different kinds of solutions will come to you.


You might think this is a flute. Like can you really get more done without doing more? But you can now that you know what to do. Just give it a try.

Those who don’t believe it’s possible are the ones who can’t imagine doing something different. And honestly this doesn’t take much, just a few simple tweaks.

It might seem a little difficult at first. I know it can be hard to ignore the notifications on your phone, but the hardest part is making the change itself.

Just ask yourself what’s more important, what you’re doing or maintaining your popularity on the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game.

Keep in mind how much better things will be when you make more progress without having to do a gazillion things.

The last thing you want to do is to keep stressing yourself out only to get slightly closer to your goal.


What about you…

From the list what do you think would be the easiest for you to do first?


About Lea

Lea is a certified life coach, foodie and lifehack expert. Don’t end up like the millions of people who gave up on their dreams, get unstuck and to the next level. Take the eye-opening Live Your Dreams course now to get moving!

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  • Jennifer Boyatt

    We have to make choices all the time, don’t we? And understanding our priorities *is* the best place to start.

    • Lea

      Yes, Jennifer. It should always be the first step.

  • I think that being positive and setting priorities are the best things to do first. Limiting those distractions is something I working to do on a more consistent basis. Great post!

    • Lea

      Thanks Tiffany. I know with so many possible distractions these days it can be tough. But I’m sure you can do it!

  • This is a terrific article, Lea. Beautiful! I must share this.

    • Lea

      Thanks so much A.D.!

  • Hi Lea,

    This is my first visit to your blog.

    I think we all would love to have a clone at times. I know that I would and I’m a very organized person.

    I think my issue is that I get myself into things and I don’t understand or realize all that’s involved until I dive in and then I overexert myself. I have the perfect example right now.

    I’m creating a product to be released next month. My intention was to release it in September or October but that deadline didn’t happen. The reason is I’m a one woman show so the further I got into this the more I realized that some of the things I needed to do were just very difficult for me and I ended up spending way too much time on them. I had to reach out for help although I really hated to do that.

    My friends were eager to help though but it’s all still a time consuming process and I think until you actually do it for the first time you just don’t understand the time that’s involved with certain projects.

    I’m not someone who ends up doing things of less importance, I just run out of time to get everything done because some things ended up taking longer than others and they had to be done.

    Oh and I have a timer too that I work by, I don’t know what I would do without it to be honest with you.

    Great share though and your suggestions are definitely spot on.

    Appreciate the post and tips. Be sure to have a wonderful week now.


    • Lea

      Adrienne thanks for sharing that example. I see a little of myself in it. In the past I’ve been known to underestimate things, especially when it comes to time frames. Sometimes I even leave myself wondering like this shouldn’t take that long.

      I don’t really like asking for help either. Although I thinking I’m getting a little more comfortable with it since it’s impossible for me to know everything.

      Thanks. You enjoy your week also! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Junie

    Hi Lea,

    I can’t print this post because of the copyright infringement. I’ll have to make some notes of the main points if you don’t mind.

    Thank you.

    • Lea

      I’m sorry you’re having problem. I just tried to print it myself and it worked. If you like I can send it to you as a pdf for easy printing… Just let me know.

      • Junie

        I tried again and a message popped up saying I need to ask your permission to copy. The print button didn’t even come up. If you could send it I would really appreciate that.

        Thank you. 🙂

        • Lea

          No problem. I just sent it to the email address linked to your Disqus account. Enjoy!

  • Junie

    Hi Lea,

    This is a great post. I needed to hear this as my life is so busy I don’t even have time for myself. After reading your post I realise that it’s mostly because I’m not doing the things I should in order to organise my time properly.

    Your list is perfect. If I take on board all you said, I know it will make a big difference to my productivity. So I can’t just use some of the items on your list, because they all apply to me.

    Thanks for sharing. I’m printing your post to use as a guide. Thanks again. 🙂

    • Lea

      Junie I’m glad this post will be helpful to you. I figured a lot of these points out when I was not prioritizing my time correctly. The best part was I didn’t feel exhausted afterward.

      You’re so welcome! 🙂

      • Junie

        Thank you so much. 🙂

  • Hey Lea
    I loved this post so much, and you gave some great tips. The one about being busy is really helpful because for a lot of people, they overexaggerate their lack of time. Like you said, when we really look at it, we definitely had the time ,we just weren’t spending it well. Being present was my other favorite because we don’t realize how much we slow down our efforts and drag things out when we scatter our mental energies around to what happened yesterday, what still needs to be done,etc…This can be challenging for sure, but simply becoming more aware is a powerful first step. Meditation has helped me a lot with that.

    Great post!

    • Lea

      Thanks Kelli!

      Becoming more aware is a great first step for any change. Once you know what’s going on you can start to make that positive change. I found meditation helps with that too. It also gives me a sense of clarity.

  • Hello Lea,

    Thank you for a great post! I enjoyed reading it and it has some great tips to reclaim productivity while being less stressed and with less effort. A win-win situation!

    I totally agree with setting priorities. A lot of overwhelm is caused by looking at a list that is too huge to take action on. What really works for me is to decide the previous evening on what I am going to work on the next day…preferably the three most important things of the day and then some more if the time permits. In that respect, eating the frog or doing the difficult and most important task first like Brian Tracy suggests really works wonders for self-confidence.

    I totally agree that clutter, distraction and multitasking cause productivity to dip and frustration to rise. Clutter has a way to get under our skin and cause productivity issues. Feng Shui in the chinese tradition and Vastu Shastra in the Indian tradition have a lot to say about the correct flow of things and not having unfunctional stuff lying around and in the way. Even if someone does not believe in the energetics of clutter, there is something to say about the loss of productivity when one has to find something. When life is disorganized to the point that everything is a crisis and things take a long time to be found like keys etc, productivity suffers a lot.

    Multitasking may work for a few people but I agree that complete attention and focus are wonderful ways to create what the psychologists call “flow.” Also, our brains are not wired to multitask and multifocus on several things at the same time. That is why we have a difficulty holding two conversations and listening to several people at the same time. It is also difficult to remember more that a 7 digit phone numbers. I think that say that 50 to 100 bits of information per second is what the human brain can pay attention to, the rest simply slips away and is unproductive. So I agree, best to unitask and focus is also wonderfully pleasing and there is a feeling of accomplishment.

    Finally, I love what you said about fun and being positive. Having fun is so important. I believe it is the most powerful reason why some people appear to do things effortlessly. They infuse fun and positivity into their tasks and actions and that makes a big difference.

    Thanks and have a great weekend!


    • Lea

      Harish we have that in common. I find it easier to get started the next day when I figure out what I need to do the evening before. Saves on wasting time in the morning trying to sort things out. Besides at the end of the day your next steps are so much clearer since you’ve just finished.

      Yes! I’ve actually witnessed people run around like chickens with their heads cut of as a result of disorganization and clutter. It really robs you of precious time and throws scheduling completely off track. Funny you mention Feng Shui recently I’ve consider implementing it in my home.

      Having fun with things and being positive makes everything easier. You’re able to things effectively and quickly, almost like its not a task at all.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Have great weekend as well!

  • Hi, Lea,

    Wow, you got my attention with that title.

    I can relate to what you’re saying – I used to be like that in the beginning of my ‘business’ days – when I was selling on eBay and trying to learn online marketing.

    I even continued bad habits when I went full-time. I do set priorities and list three big things that will propel my business forward as top priorities to be done no matter what.

    I installed an app called Rescue Time that gave me a report at the end of the week to show me where I spent my time (what sites) and how long I spent on each one.

    It’s a wonderful tool and a huge eye opener because I saw where I wasted time, and made a bunch of changes.

    You mentioned multitasking, and I couldn’t agree more! 🙂 Focus is the key, not trying to tackle more than one thing at a time.

    I enjoyed your article and will be sharing with friends.

    Talk to you soon.
    – Carol

    • Lea

      Lol, I was hoping to Carol. So many people thinking being more productive just means doing a million more things.

      Wow, that sounds good, I didn’t even know you could get a report of your time. That’s really great! Then you know exactly where you need to scale back and how long it takes to do something else for better planning in the future. I love your insight!

      Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate what you’ve shared.

  • Great tips you have shared about being focused. I see myself being distracted especially when I am online. I am reading a post then suddenly I distracted by a notification on Social media. I found out that it takes more time to get things done when you are distracted.

    Focusing on one thing at a time is the best option and great for productivity.

    • Lea

      The internet can be a big distraction. It’s a great resource you just have to be disciplined. In the past even when I didn’t have the browser up I was compelled to pull it up and start looking for stuff. Distractions like that definitely slow me down also, when they don’t stop me completely.

      I couldn’t agree more.

  • Hi Lea
    Again I love the tips that you have shared. What would go first for me would be ‘scratch multitasking.’ It’s just not effective. Twice during this week I have had discussion at work with another manager and we both agreed that multitasking is a lie and that it doesn’t work.

    Getting rid of the distractions is top on the list for me. That’s easy and like Steve commented, especially online distractions. At times it can be counter productive and you can easily spend a couple of hours just moving around from one site to the next.

    • Lea

      I agree. I think multitasking at best is misapplied or taken out of context. You can’t effectively do two or more major things at the same time. The results are going to the the best.

      Distractions are key for me as well. Sometimes I make excuses for it like its better to do it now rather than later.

      Focusing is sometimes the hardest part.

  • Some really good tips here. I’ve started using Evernote to unscramble the myriad random thoughts that pass through my mind each day. Amazing what a digital notebook can do for you. So yeah, I’m definitely discovering the benefits of point no.1 in particular.

    • Lea

      Digital notepads are great. I use Workflowy to sort out things I need to do as they come to be. I love using digital because I can jot it down practically anywhere and I can organize them neatly without it looking like a crazy mess.

  • I love these ideas. I’ve found that getting a hold on distractions is really important – especially online distractions. You go to a website, look around for a few minutes and then a few minutes more and before you know it, a couple of hours have been gone. That’s why I’ve installed Leechblock onto my browser so it kicks me off time-wasting websites. It’s really helped me be more productive recently.

    • Lea

      Yeah Steve, that has definitely happened to me a number of times. I intend to look at one thing quick then something else catches my eye. In no time you can be completely off track.

      I didn’t know about that software. Interesting, thanks for sharing.