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5 Tips for Being Truly Productive on Your Own Terms

Creative living coach Jamie Ridler, CPCC, lives in Toronto, where it seems that just about anyone answers the question “How are you?” with “I’m busy” and “I’m tired.”

Of course, the same is likely true in your neck of the woods as well. All of us have a lot going on, and we might be scrambling to get stuff done and keep up.

But as leadership coach Tanya Geisler, CPCC, ACC, said, “getting stuff done is not intrinsically the same as getting important, meaningful, soul-nourishing, compassionate stuff done.”

“Productivity is not positive if all it is creating is a busy, tired life,” said Ridler, who’s helped thousands of women around the world find the courage and confidence to bring their creativity to life.

In other words, productivity is about doing the things that are fulfilling to you, and doing it on your own terms. Below are five tips to help you be truly productive.

Define the deeper desire.

“Being productive takes effort, strategy and planning, so it had better be important, meaningful and connected with a bigger why,” said Geisler, who teaches women how to overcome the impostor complex in their life, work and life’s work. She and Ridler both stressed the importance of connecting the activity or project you’re working on to an underlying desire.

As Geisler said, “What is your productivity in pursuit of? What is that desire? What is it in service of? Why does it matter?”

If you’re working on a project that doesn’t seem to have a bigger why, Ridler suggested asking yourself these questions:

  • What can I bring to the project?
  • What can the project bring to me?
  • Who am I? How can I engage in this task as a meaningful expression of myself?
  • How can I bring my [creativity, efficiency, sense of humor, etc.] to this work?
  • How can this project serve and support me? “Perhaps you’re looking for more leadership or learning opportunities. How can you build that in? Maybe you want to add to your portfolio, performance review or resume. How can this project do that for you?”

According to Geisler, your why might be “wanting to be more efficient so you have more downtime,” which honors your value of family. Or maybe it’s “being more productive so you have space for philanthropic endeavors,” she said.

However, “if you find yourself spending the majority of your time on things that do not address your underlying desires, it may be time for some deep self-reflection and fresh direction-setting,” Ridler added.

Make tedious tasks beautiful.

“If you have to tackle a task you normally dread, make it beautiful,” said Carrie Klassen, who founded The Pink Elephant School of Kind Business, and helps self-employed people in helping professions grow their practices.

For instance, whenever Klassen has to organize expense receipts, she lights a beeswax candle and sips a fragrant tea. You might add drops of a citrus essential oil to a water bottle, and spray your favorite scent, she said.

Get support.

“I am a huge proponent of asking—and offering—support,” Geisler said. “’How can I support you’ is code for ‘I love you’ in my book and I ask it, and am luckily asked it, often.”

For instance, you might check in with an accountability partner every week, she said. Or you might form a mastermind group to inspire and support you, she said.

Celebrate your accomplishments.

“So often we focus exclusively on what didn’t get done, judging ourselves harshly and creating a really tight and stressful environment for our productivity,” Ridler said. Instead, she encouraged readers to celebrate what you did accomplish.

Geisler also believes that celebration is underrated. She suggested celebrating your progress and creating your own markers, such as celebrating writing 1,000 words of your book.

Also, be sure to celebrate the way that you want to celebrate. As Geisler said, this might be anything from champagne and sparklers to quiet pauses to savoring the spark of motivation from completing a fulfilling project.

Know yourself—and trust what works.

Your mentors, leaders in your field and people you view as incredibly successful may have many fantastic productivity hacks, Geisler said. But “your way is the way.”

Productivity looks different for different people. And only you know yourself best.

According to Geisler, only you know if you need more sleep or if you need to wake up before dawn. Only you know your idiosyncrasies and whether you’re most creative before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m., she said.

The only person who can define what productivity really is and how to do it best is you. So take the tips and tricks that resonate with you and toss the rest. Always look within.

Busy father photo available from Shutterstock

5 Tips for Being Truly Productive on Your Own Terms

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 5 Tips for Being Truly Productive on Your Own Terms. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 24 Jan 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.