11 things productive people do without even realizing it

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In this fast-paced and ever-changing world, productivity is key to keeping on top of things.

While many of us aren’t as productive as we’d like to be, others seem to ooze efficiency.

Here are 11 things productive people do, often without even realizing it.

1. They work diligently toward goals.

Productive people know that to keep the momentum going, they need to work toward something.

They have a clear goal in mind. A goal that, crucially, is achievable.

After all, nothing sabotages productivity like trying to attain the unattainable.

Having this end result in sight, rather than some woolly idea, means they know the direction they need to go in, and they stick to it.

To keep their energy high along the way, they’ll set mini targets to achieve too.

For example, at work, they’ll set themselves the task of completing five calls or responding to five emails before they get up for their next coffee break.

At home, they’ll vacuum three rooms before they stop for a five-minute scroll through social media.

These may seem like trivial targets, but they encourage focus and drive, and thus, maximize productivity.

2. They prioritize the things that matter most.

When it comes to being productive, it’s key to first work out which tasks are most important.

After all, you’re hardly going to get results if you complete all the trivial tasks first and then realize you’ve run out of time for the biggie that matters the most.

Productive people seem to prioritize without even realizing it. They instinctively size up the relative importance or urgency of various tasks and tackle the most crucial and time-sensitive ones first.

As tempting as it is, they resist falling back on the quickest and easiest tasks, even if they are the most enjoyable.

When new tasks come in, they re-evaluate their to-do list and shift their focus accordingly.

This prioritization allows them to focus on what’s most important at any given moment, and it maximizes their output as a result.

3. They take breaks!

Many of us fall into the trap of thinking we need to be slaves to our desks in order to get stuff done.

But productive people know that to keep their energy and efforts high, they need to regularly take breaks and recharge.

Some people seem to have an inner clock that keeps them on track. When they feel their efficiency slipping, they take five.

And importantly, they use this time to completely switch off from the task at hand.

Others who are prone to getting over-absorbed in work utilize a break schedule—and stick to it!

Fans of the Pomodoro Technique, for example, will work for 25 minutes, then break for five, but this can be tweaked to suit personal circumstances.

When they break, they might go for a brisk walk around the block or grab a coffee.

If they work from home, they may use this opportunity to relax on the sofa, or even maximize productivity further by putting on a load of laundry or washing the dishes.

Ensuring the brain and body has a distinct break from whatever it was working on allows it to come back re-energized and often with greater clarity about how to deal with the task.

It can also prevent you from making silly mistakes caused by a lack of focus.

Taking regular breaks is particularly important for people with chronic pain who need to move about to release stiffness or those who experience fatigue.

Productive people don’t feel guilty about taking regular breaks, because they know they will feel and work better for it—and the results speak for themselves.

4. They keep it positive.

Productive people are often inherently positive.

They may not consciously realize it, but they frame problems and challenges as setbacks to be overcome and learned from, rather than seeing them as failures.

This means they don’t waste precious time dwelling on mistakes.

That’s not to say they brush them under the carpet or deny them. In fact, positive types are usually great at accepting responsibility.

But rather than ruminating on shoulda, woulda, couldas, they use the time to figure out how to either fix the mistake they made or prevent it from happening again.

This PMA makes them great co-workers, and they often uplift the atmosphere around them and help others to be more productive too.

Extra reading: How To Have A Positive Mental Attitude: 20 No Nonsense Tips!

5. They ask for honest and constructive feedback.

Productive people are focused on maximizing results, so they aren’t afraid to receive feedback to help improve their processes.

In fact, they seek it out.

They’ll ask others to review their ideas and work and welcome honest critique.

That’s not to say they’ll always agree with it, but this flexible and open approach means they are willing to listen and try out new or different strategies that could improve productivity.

They know that sometimes you can get stuck in a rut, doing things the way they’ve always been done simply out of convenience, so they are always on the lookout for a fresh perspective.

6. They keep it balanced.

Just like taking regular breaks throughout the day is important, so too is having a clean break once the working day is done.

Think of the five-minute Pomodoro breaks as little boosts to your battery life. They keep you going and give you a surge of power, but they won’t be enough to sustain you long-term if you don’t plug your battery in for a full recharge every day.

When you finish work for the day, it’s time to fully recharge your battery, so it has maximum power to get you through the next working day at top efficiency.

The key to this recharge is achieving a good work-life balance: finishing work when you are meant to, and switching off from work once you are home.

An imbalance not only damages your productivity (because eventually, your battery will be running on empty), but it also takes its toll on your personal life, particularly if you have a partner and/or children.

And when your personal life is suffering, you’re likely to spend your work days feeling stressed, worried, or guilty about your family, thus reducing your focus and productivity further.  

Of course, there will always be times when work demands require you to work late or deal with out-of-hours emails, but productive people stay fine-tuned to their work-life balance and do their best to stop the scales from tipping too far.

7. They move about…often!

There is nothing more energy-sapping than staying still all day.

It might seem ironic, because stillness surely conserves energy, but the reality is that sitting or standing in one position for too long makes us sluggish, and for some of us can even cause pain and stiffness.

This fatigue and pain can make it hard to focus, and if you’re in front of a computer, eye strain will eventually take hold too.

Productive people utilize their regular breaks to get their bodies moving and their blood pumping.

They stretch, go for a walk, do star jumps, etc. Anything that brings their energy level up and loosens the muscles a bit.

They don’t just wait for break times either—if a task can be done moving about, they’ll do it.

Like taking calls whilst pacing about, using an adjustable standing desk, or taking a trip to the mailroom to stretch the legs.

8. They resist distraction.

There is nothing that hinders focus more than the constant ping of a WhatsApp chat.

But whether they realize they are doing it or not, productive workers manage to zone out distractions and keep their attention focused on the task at hand.

They may mute chats, turn their phones on silent, or keep them off their desks, and they shut down any distracting browsers, so they aren’t tempted to sneak a peek.

If they want to stay connected or get a bit of online shopping done during the working day, they allocate time for this during their breaks.

They seem to have an innate ability to zone out background chat, and if others try to engage them at an inconvenient time, they aren’t afraid to (diplomatically) tell them so.

The strategies we’ve talked about, like setting mini targets, taking regular breaks, and moving about, help them to keep their focus so that it is easier to resist distractions when they do appear.

9. They utilize tech.

To maximize efficiency, productive people know that it’s okay to utilize the resources available to them.

In fact, it’s better than okay; it’s desirable.

After all, why waste ten minutes doing something that an app or tool could do for you in two?

Not very productive, I’m sure you’ll agree.

From setting simple reminder alarms to employing automation tools, they use technology to streamline their processes, keep to schedule, and free up their time to deal with other tasks.

10. They are proactive go-getters.

Productive people don’t sit on their laurels waiting to be told what to do.

They get stuff done.

They aren’t the type to use a quiet spell at work to do online shopping or gossip in the kitchen.

Instead, they utilize the opportunity to work through all the ‘less important’ tasks that have been sitting low down on their to-do list.

You know, the stuff we avoid like filing or organizing the unruly mass of files on our computer.

And if there’s nothing left on their to-do list, they offer their help to others or look at ways to streamline or improve processes ready for when the pace picks back up again.

They are often problem spotters as well as problem solvers, which allows them to stay ahead of the game and drive productivity, without even realizing it.

Extra reading: 13 tips to help you become a proactive go-getter (stop waiting and start doing!)

11. They celebrate success.

High motivation = high productivity. And there’s no better way to keep motivation high than by rewarding yourself for your successes.

We’re not talking big, award-winning achievements here (although definitely celebrate those too).

Rather, we’re talking about celebrating everyday, little wins, with everyday, little rewards or treats.

Productive people often use the mini-targets or goals they set themselves as measures of success, and they celebrate when they achieve the target or reach the milestone.

For example:

  • Get through to five customers on the phone in a row? Celebrate by grabbing a cake from the staff kitchen.
  • Finish writing your research proposal? Reward yourself with a break and flip through your favorite magazine or read a couple of chapters of your book.
  • Smash your presentation? Treat yourself to takeout for lunch, or organize a meal out with friends.

This strategy of celebrating success encourages goal-setting, as well as promotes taking breaks so all in all it’s a productivity triple whammy.  


Perhaps you never considered it before, but if you see yourself in this article, you’re likely a highly productive individual.

Go ahead and celebrate!

Many of us will fall on the other end of the spectrum though. We procrastinate.

That doesn’t mean we don’t desperately want to be productive, but we often get in our own way.

The good news is that the strategies outlined in this article, which come so naturally to some people, can be implemented by everyone.

So give it a go, and release the productivity that’s been hiding within.

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