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What Would a Productive Person Do

I admire people who are naturally organized with their time. You know the ones who were born with that ability - always on top of everything with perfectly organized calendars and perfectly organized email inboxes and perfectly organized files and perfectly organized homes... That's not me.

I first learned that productivity was a learnable skill rather than an innate ability when I read an article about keeping your email cleaned up with the 4 Ds - Do it, Delegate it, Delete it, Defer it. I remember finding it somewhat revolutionary at the time and thinking “you mean there is a systematic approach I can follow to keep track of my email?” Back in the day, my organization's email system had a small limit on how large our email boxes could be. When it filled up, it was time for me to delete messages. I am pretty sure that I learned this technique from this article.

I found out that the 4Ds came from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. While the book was kind of hard to get through, parts of his system were extremely useful.

Lately, I have been reading the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. In one of the chapters, he talks about making change by changing who you are. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. If you want to be a runner, you need to act as if you were a runner - set your running clothes and shoes by your bed. When you first wake up, put on your running clothes rather than check your phone. Go outside and walk/jog/run rather than making coffee first. Every time that you run, you are, in fact, a runner.

I have been on a productivity quest for the last few years. There are productivity gurus who love to share how they are productive. I have found that many (or all) have team members they can delegate to. That’s not especially helpful for me at this stage in my life. After consuming MANY books and articles on productivity. Here are some of the tips that I have learned for behaving like a productive person.

I’ve got 10,000 things to do and little time to do it.

Yes, the to-do list can seem endless and overwhelming. Pick one thing. Anything. Do it. Multitasking is a myth.

I need to research this.

Yes AND act on it. Research can be a good first step and it can a great way to procrastinate. At some point, stop researching and do it.

I am almost finished with this (and 4 or 5 other things).

Focus on one thing and finish it.

I need to do this and this and this and this….

Yes. Use the Eisenhower principle to help distinguish importance vs. urgency thing. Do what's most important.

To be a productive person:

  • Pick one thing

  • Start doing the one thing

  • Finish doing the one thing


“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.”

Olin Miller



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