Be More Productive: 5 Tips to Get Shit Done, According to Science

Procrastination is easy. Spending far too many hours on a project is easy. What’s hard is getting things done in a reasonable amount of time with a high level of quality. Productivity is most likely something you and your team struggle with every day, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can learn from the masters, people like Elon Musk and Bill Gates, and get things done. All you have to do is make a few small adjustments to the way you work.

Start with your why

Simon Sinek has written a whole book and given an incredibly popular TED talk about the importance of knowing your why. Your why will do everything from helping you find your ideal customers to inspiring you on those dreary days when you just want to quit. Elon Musk isn’t building Teslas because they’re fun (although that probably doesn’t hurt) but because he wants to have an impact on car emissions and global warming. Mark Zuckerberg wanted to connect people. JK Rowling wanted to amuse her daughter.

Effective and efficient people know what their goal is and focus on it. In doing so they’re able to eliminate distractions and devote their time and energy to what really matters, what will propel the project forward. This clear focus allows them to reach their goals faster and more directly but they aren’t foolish enough to do it without help.

how to be more productive at work tips

Develop Systems

Don’t start from scratch each time you complete a task and don’t ask anyone you work with to either. Make everything you do more efficient and effortless by implementing systems for everything. There is no task too small to be systematized, whether it’s how to respond to customer emails or how to organize tasks in Trello. Even the processes for creative work can be systematized, although the creative work itself shouldn’t be.

The momentum required to start a new task from the beginning is hard because it involves a lot of decisions. By systematizing as much as possible, you take away the friction and resistance you’ll naturally feel. Instead of starting a project from the beginning, you’ll be able to jump in at step 2 or 3 and begin with momentum.

Don’t Multitask

There is no such thing as true multitasking. What you’re actually doing is forcing your brain to switch repeatedly between tasks and denying yourself the time to focus entirely on what you’re trying to accomplish. Science has been telling us this for years.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Instead of multitasking and doing two things badly in twice the time, focus on one task at a time.” quote=”Instead of multitasking and doing two things badly in twice the time, focus on one task at a time.” theme=”style6″] Get it done well. Move on to the next one.

Ask For Help When You Need It

You know what’s not efficient or productive? Staring at the same problem for hours or days without making any progress when someone in your company or your life could easily help you make it past this roadblock. Maybe you’re too deep in the issue or maybe you just don’t have the information/experience to see what would be clear to others. The best solution in this case is to simply ask for help.

No one expects you to have all the answers, not even if you’re the boss, and people love knowing their experience and expertise is valuable. So ask and be prepared to be asked for help in return. This sort of symbiotic relationship is why the company isn’t just you.

Use Your Goals to Make Decisions Easy

You make hundreds of decisions every day. Some of them barely matter (what you eat for breakfast, what color socks you chose to wear today) and some can impact dozens of other people (whether to take on that lucrative but difficult client, whether to go after more funding now or in a year.) The easiest way to make the decisions that matter is by asking yourself “Does this get me closer to my goal?” If your answer is yes, do it. If not, move on.

Herb Kelleher, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, is well known for using this decision-making process as part of his goal to make Southwest a well-known and well-loved low cost carrier. Don’t waste time debating the pros and cons of every decision. With this one simple framework, you can make good decisions quickly and easily.

When you have an unambiguous goal, it’s easier to see the route to get there. With systems in place, anyone on your team and carry the baton on your journey and they’ll be happy to pitch in and help because you’ll be able to clearly explain the destination. You’ll make decisions easily and be able to focus on what needs to get done, one task at a time. Effective and productive leaders implement these strategies and there’s no reason you can’t as well.


Amna is a writer and content strategist. As the Head of Content at Pinstriped, she’s responsible for everything with words you see on this website. If you find any mistakes, please let her know on Twitter or Instagram.